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September 5, 2008 |  9 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Meredith L. Nicoll

Whom and Exactly How is McCain Going to Fight?

Meredith L. Nicoll: McCain’s ‘fighting words’ might superficially translate to a hawkish, us-against-them foreign policy declaration. However, specific strategies for foreign policy were almost entirely absent from McCain’s speech. How should the international community take it?

In his acceptance speech for the Republican party’s presidential nomination, John McCain’s central message was "I fight for Americans." His main focus was to display his commitment to the American people and what is right for his country, but he almost entirely forgot to mention exactly whom and how he is "prepared to fight."

One might argue that his acceptance speech was geared toward American citizens and was not the right arena for a detailed outline of foreign policy proposals. Barack Obama, for example, also might have left much to be said on his policies; however, Obama still went into many more issues than McCain, leaving many to wonder, what does McCain plan to do about the US role in the world?

In fact, it is rather difficult, at least maybe for the average voter, to get specifics on his views on this subject in general. Some information on his opinions about Europe can be found here on the Atlantic Community website but McCain's own website, which is supposed to be the source where voters can get specific information about McCain's policy proposals, also lacks any specific information about his foreign policy ideas. Barack Obama's website, on the other hand, has an entire section for foreign policy and gives detailed information on specific subjects. His public attention to global issues may be just another reason the international community seems to favor an Obama presidency. But, then again, maybe McCain is just confining his topics to the one that matters to American voters: America.

McCain did indeed mention some global issues in context of US interests. The most detailed of which was Russia's invasion of their "small democratic neighbor." He stressed the importance of working "to establish good relations with Russia" without turning a "blind eye to aggression and international lawlessness that threatens the peace and stability of the world and the security of the American people." Interestingly enough, out of all the issues facing the US in foreign policy, he chose to share his opinions about Russia, opinions that seem to actually be relatively similar to those of his opponent. Barack Obama, on the other hand, geared the foreign policy aspects of his speech to focus upon the discrepancies between him and McCain.

One of McCain's largest issues of his speech was American energy independence. He not only fails to go into specifics about from which countries the US needs to gain energy independence, but instead, even stated Americans need to "stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like [them] very much."

McCain's only mentions of Iraq were praises of the current 'surge' strategy. Can one assume that, because he does not mention his plans for policy changes, it will just be a continuation of Bush's policies?

It seems that after his first speech as an official presidential candidate, McCain left many questions unanswered for those in the international community whose lives are effects every day by US foreign policy. Is this just an issue of what most US voters want or do not want to hear? Or is lack of information a signal of how high (or low) foreign policy stands on McCain's agenda?

Meredith Nicoll is an editorial intern at atlantic-community.org

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joe  stone

September 6, 2008

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Meredith

John McCain is running for the POTUS unlike Barry Obama who seems to be running for the president of Europe.
 
Unregistered User

September 6, 2008

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Joe,

Yes John McCain is running for POTUS. He has been running for some time. He has run along side George Bush. He has run straight toward George Bush and now he is running away from George Bush as fast as he can.

I looked up maverick.

mav·er·ick (mvr-k, mvrk)
n.
1. An unbranded range animal, especially a calf that has become separated from its mother, traditionally considered the property of the first person who brands it.
2. One that refuses to abide by the dictates of or resists adherence to a group; a dissenter.
adj.
Being independent in thought and action or exhibiting such independence: maverick politicians; a maverick decision.

We have been tolerating maverick politicians and their maverick decisions for the last few years. Enough is enough.

Meredith,

I hope we hear more from you!
 
Marek  Swierczynski

September 7, 2008

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Let me offer Poland's perspective, a country that had just thought it cemented its one sided "strategic alliance" with the US, by signing a deal on the MD third site to be placed on the Baltic Sea south coast. Here, McCain is clearly the Better Next President of the US, almost unanimously by the major political powers. And how they read his statements is an example of what they want the US to do, regardless of the analysis of what the US can do in the nearest future. McCain had an advantage - he is white (although no one said Obama's skin colour is a disadvantage, but let's be honest - Central Europe is by and large racist), he is older than his opponent (grey hair is naturally linked with wisdom), and he fought in the time of the Cold War on the "right" side (CE countries have suffered from the period greatly and real damages mix with prejudicies). So he is naturally seen as "our" candidate. What makes him even more relevant in the recent time is his language: especially his rhetoric against Russia. Poland's leaders, the president more than the government to be fair, have found themselves on the radical fringe of the EU in regard to the recent Georgian crisis and desperately seek for international support. McCain offers them a cold war rhetoric which is very useful in domestic policy making. It justifies the radical stance taken in Warsaw - regardless of the fact that senator McCain is not yet a US president. But Warsaw very much crosses its fingers for him to be one and you could hardly find an article in the press that does not favours him in the November election. With the relaunch of the political season in Poland it is however expected that the US presidential race will go off the headlines and many may be disappointed if Obama finally wins. Some leaders may be in trouble, as they have criticised the Illinois senator for not including Warsaw in his European tour of visits a month ago. Certainly, the EU will be more splitted if Obama wins and Poland is unlikely to be on the winning side, considering its tough stance on Russia and reluctance to co-operate with the EU's Franco-German engine. The more it hopes for McCain to be winner.
Tags: | McCain | Poland | EU |
 
Unregistered User

September 7, 2008

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“One of McCain's largest issues of his speech was American energy independence. He not only fails to go into specifics about from which countries the US needs to gain energy independence”

Isn’t it clear? One could safely say that major modern conflicts directly or indirectly are fueled by oil. From Muslim extremism to Moscow recklessness it is the money the USA and Europe pay for oil and gas. No wonder that America gets tired for paying the same bill twice…

I think that energy independence is a much better answer than promoting democracy to the places where it cannot be promoted under current circumstances. These places could probably make their own choice of future development without representing a threat to the World.

Germany enjoys its dependency on Russia. France seems under way to aggravate the problem by flirting with Gaddafi. But America might have finally got it.

As for specific countries, take any you like. Unearned money make nobody good. (Even Norway kills whales…)
 
Donald  Stadler

September 7, 2008

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"McCain's only mentions of Iraq were praises of the current 'surge' strategy. Can one assume that, because he does not mention his plans for policy changes, it will just be a continuation of Bush's policies?"

I think you may be ignorant of the political genesis of the 'surge' strategy. McCain was a strong and constant critic of the US strategy in Iraq for several years - he thought it much too passive.

McCain was not the military father of the 'surge' strategy - that came from General Petraeus and his group. But McCain was the foremost political supporter of the change in strategy.

McCain probably thinks of surge as his own strategy, not a 'Bush policy'. And he is largely correct, I think.

One thing which many Europeans seem to be missing is that surge has been working. Not perfectly, but Iraq is arguably more peaceful than Afghanistan today. McCain can take some of the credit for that development.

So yes; McCain probably intends to continue following the McCain strategy in Iraq, at least until it ceases working. If it does. He may even try to spur new strategic thinking on Afghanistan, and try to make some changes. When what you are doing isn';t working well, it may be time to try something else.
 
Marek  Swierczynski

September 7, 2008

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Don's comment made me think of Afghanistan. What is McCain going to fight there? After all he pledged to catch OBL if he's elected. Well, that's a pretty bold statement, considering all previous efforts, including the pledge of GWB to "hout down and punish" those responsible for the 9/11 attacks and secretary Rumsfeld's words of "smoking out" the al-Kaida leaders from their "holes" in Tora Bora. Neither was productive so far and all success the coalition had in chasing al-Kaida leaders was by using intelligenca and surveillance rather than fire power. The third in line - Khaleed Sheikh Mohhamed - was catched in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, as far as I can remember, with no gunfire involved. Anyway, much more than fire power, the fight with al-Kaida or anything that replaced it, would require diplomacy in the world after GWB. Changed that Don seems to suggest above, require more fire power in Afghanistan, which could be useful also. But much more is getting the new Pakistani president on board and through that getting access to uncontrolled areas on Afghan-Pakistani border. Or dismantling the ISI altogether. The hawkish McCain may be good for the fight, but is he prepared to negotiate?
Tags: | US | Pakistan | Afghanistan |
 
Donald  Stadler

September 7, 2008

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"Changed that Don seems to suggest above, require more fire power in Afghanistan, which could be useful also."

Surge is more than increased troop levels, it is working closely with Sunni locals in the Sunni triangle. Presumably an McCain Afghan strategy would take some of the ideas from surge insofar as practical, particular the local strategy.

Afghanistan is not Iraq, and tactics which work well in Iraq may not work in Afghanistan, and vice versa. In fact I'm tempted to assert that tactics which wlrk well in one region of Afghanistan may not work well in other regions. Afghanistan deserves the respect due to the unique.

In any case neither McCain or Obama would be well-erved by being too explicit about what their strategy would be. Neither man knows all that much about the country; the actual strategy should be formulated by people with better local knowledge. Also, blaring out strategy in public will give the opposition a year's notice of intentions and would lprematurely lock the candidate into a course which may not be wise by the time it comes to implement it. Both candidates must necessarily be somewhat vague....
 
Patrick  Edwin Moran

September 7, 2008

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Nations in the same boat with Poland may think that McCain offers them more promise of support than does Obama, and they could be correct in that assumption, at least in the short term. However, two major changes in the world during the last few decades point out the need for a grand strategy that free world nations can all buy into. Getting the U.S. to formulate and/or buy into such a strategy would probably be necessary to make it really work.

The two changes are (1) global warming (which actually started when humans learned to farm and started modifying their environment on a major scale by clearing land for cultivation and raising cattle for meat), and (2) the loss of pressure on minority populations worldwide to stay subordinated to the larger nation, or the larger nations, within whose boundary they found themselves. The second change happened with the demise of the Soviet Union.

It is not clear that either Obama or McCain has begun to think about what would constitute a viable grand strategy. For the long term, the interests of nations formerly coerced to be part of the Soviet Union might be better served by a U.S. leader with an effective long-term grand strategy than by one with a bellicose short-term strategy.

Tags: | grand strategy |
 
Donald  Stadler

September 7, 2008

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"(2) the loss of pressure on minority populations worldwide to stay subordinated to the larger nation"

Arguably the change first occured with the end of WWI, and accelerated with the demise of European colonial empires after WWII. Russia was a holdout until the fall of the Berlin Wall, and remains attached to the idea still. China may still be a hold out in some areas.
 

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