February 6, 2008


McCain faces a dual challenge on his foreign policy message (John Vinocur, February 6, 2008, IHT)

McCain arrives in Munich with the core message on Iraq that America doesn't have to accept defeat there.

Bolstered by decreased casualties and the seeming success of the surge in numbers of U.S. troops, McCain says instead he could envisage an American presence in Iraq for 100 years - not much of a shock to international ears, familiar for more than a half-century with next-to-permanent American forces stationed in Germany, Japan and South Korea.

By talking to an audience of foreign affairs and security experts in Europe, McCain is demonstrating to Americans that he commands the professional respect that would allow the United States to restore the world-wide confidence lost through the misadventures of the Bush administration.

At the same time, too, McCain can tell the world things it very much wants to hear.

He insists America has to change how it acts internationally, and cites the Declaration of Independence's command that the United States must pay "decent respect to the opinions of mankind."

In fact, in his call in May at the Hoover Institution for a worldwide League of Democracies, McCain promised to seek the views of "my democratic counterparts" on the proposal, and stressed that America "must respect the collective will of our democratic allies."

"To be successful international leaders," he went on, "we need to be good international citizens. This means upholding and strengthening international laws and norms, including the laws of war. We must champion the Geneva conventions, and we must fulfill the letter and the spirit of our international obligations."

"Our moral standing in the world requires we respect what are, after all, American principles of justice. We can't let failings like prisoner abuse tarnish our image. If we are model citizens of the world, more people around the world will look to us as a model."

At home, that sounds responsible and reasonable, and abroad, it's enough to warm a centrist or even a Social Democrat heart.

But it's also the flip-side of the Straight Talk Express.

Turn the disc over and there's much more of an edge. Accordingly, McCain says, Donald Rumsfeld "will go down as one of the worst secretaries of defense."

Treading where George W. Bush never dared, McCain calls Putin a 19th-century Russian autocrat, manipulating "Europe's dependence on Russian oil and gas to compel silence and obedience."

As for Iran, he says, "only one thing is worse than using the military option and that is the Iranians acquiring nuclear weapons."

The subtext of McCain's League of Democracies - rather like the former French Prime Minister Édouard Balladur's notion of a Union of the West that would join the European Union and the United States in decision-making - is the exclusion of Russia and China (while maintaining trade relations with them).

President McCain will inherit the Axis of Good that W forged--with the particularly important additions being India, Indonesia, Brazil, France (at least momentarily), Canada, and Germany. It's only Bush Derangement Syndrome that prevents foreign policy experts from seeing that. Formalizing the League would be a useful but unnecessary step.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 6, 2008 12:02 AM

We will give the opinions of mankind all the respect that a particular opinion is actually due - depending on the opinion.

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 9:17 AM