In a speech
to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, John McCain outlined his vision for
U.S. foreign policy if he were elected president. As portrayed by much of the
so-called mainstream media, one might be led to believe the McCain's vision
is fundamentally different than the current U.S. foreign policy practiced by
the Bush administration, as evidenced by the sampling of titles of these newspaper
The emphasis on cooperation is clearly intended to convey a change from the
Bush administration's go-it-alone unilateralism (the Washington Times
article title was more direct: "McCain
Cites Breaks With Bush Foreign Policy"). But while how the United States
conducts foreign policy is certainly important, what matters more is the policy
itself. In that regard, McCain's speech reveals all the talk about cooperation
is just style over substance.
The reality is that McCain extols the neoconservative foreign policy vision
(not surprisingly, some of his foreign policy advisers include neocon stalwarts
such as former CIA director James
Scheunemann, the campaign's director of foreign policy and national security,
who helped author the Iraq Liberation Act that funded Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi
National Congress and created the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq; Weekly
Standard editor Bill
Kristol; and Kristol's Project for a New American Century co-founder, Robert
Kagan). Citing Harry Truman ("God has created us and brought us to our present
position of power and strength for some great purpose"), he argues, "Now it
is our turn." What is it our turn to do? (Apparently, among other things, it
is now our turn to needlessly antagonize and confront Russia – still the only
other nuclear power in the world with the ability incinerate the United States
– by kicking them out of the G-8 and expanding NATO from the Baltic to Black
Sea. Well played, sir! He also thinks that NATO should be "open to all democracies"
regardless of geographic location.) Using language that could have been pulled
from one of President Bush's speeches, McCain says:
"We cannot wish the world to be a better place than it is. We have
enemies for whom no attack is too cruel, and no innocent life safe, and who
would, if they could, strike us with the world's most terrible weapons. There
are states that support them, and which might help them acquire those weapons
because they share with terrorists the same animating hatred for the West.
According to McCain, "This is the central threat of our time." And we must
"confront the transcendent challenge of our time: the threat of radical Islamic
terrorism." Sounding just like Bush, McCain claims that the terrorists "devote
all their energies and indeed their very lives to murdering innocent men, women,
and children. They alone seek nuclear weapons and other tools of mass destruction
… to use against us wherever and whenever they can." Like Bush, McCain is essentially
saying that the terrorists hate us for who we are and refuses to acknowledge
that what we do has consequences, including motivating acts of terrorism. And
like Bush, McCain's prescription is democracy:
- "In the troubled and often dangerous region they occupy, these two nations
[Iraq and Afghanistan] can either be sources of extremism and instability
or they can in time become pillars of stability, tolerance, and democracy."
- "We must help expand the power and reach of freedom."
And sounding positively Wilsonian, McCain called for creating "a League of
Democracies – that can harness the vast influence of the more than one hundred
democratic nations around the world to advance our values and defend our shared
Ultimately – and perhaps most importantly – McCain would continue the Bush
administration's quixotic Iraq policy: "Success in Iraq … is the establishment
of peaceful, stable, prosperous, democratic states that pose no threat to neighbors."
Even if it takes 100 years.
Sen. McCain fashions himself as a realistic idealist. However, the only thing
realistic in his speech was his acknowledgment that "we can no longer delude
ourselves that relying on these [Middle East] autocrats is our safest bet."
Yet he doesn't offer any alternative to this policy other than echoing the Bush
administration's call for spreading democracy:
"Whether they eventually become stable democracies themselves, or are allowed
to sink back into chaos and extremism, will determine not only the fate of that
critical part of the world, but our fate, as well. That is the broad strategic
perspective through which to view our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan."
In the end, McCain's reality is no different than Bush's reality. He's just
a neoconservative wolf dressed up in cooperative, multilateralist sheep's clothing.
What amazes and baffles me is how people don't
seem to want to recognize John McCain for what he is. Take, for example, a liberal-leaning
Democratic friend who thinks the Bush administration is a disaster. Surprisingly,
he doesn't like either Clinton or Obama (you would think as a Democrat he would
at least like one of them). Even more surprising is that he thinks McCain is
a "cautious conservative" and would be better on foreign policy. I have moderate
conservative friends who believe McCain won't be ideological and will be "more
reasonable" (as in less partisan) if elected president. Thus, it should come
as no surprise that whether his opponent is Hillary Clinton or Barrack Obama,
according to the Rasmussen
Reports daily presidential tracking poll, McCain is in the lead. Some of
my other Democratic friends firmly believe that once the dust settles on the
Obama vs. Clinton fracas the American public will come to its senses and never
vote for four more years of current policy. To use a favorite British phrase,
those Democrats may be gobsmacked come Nov. 5, 2008.