Saturday, January 12, 2008

John McCain: a Diplomat and a Fighter

With Joe Biden and Chuck Hagel not in the race for the presidency, John McCain is now the only candidate in either party with a serious and informed foreign policy vision. The debates and campaign season sound bytes too often fail to show McCain's grasp of the complexity of the situation we face, and the nuanced yet strong response this situation requires of us.

Take, for example, McCain's recent piece for Foreign Affairs.

Or this excellent interview at Pajamas Media, where the interviewers give McCain a chance to expand on the ideas in his article. (In the HD format, you can see this man's well-traveled hazel eyes communicate wisdom and idealism.)

As someone who reads up a bit on international issues, I like it when a politician can actually be enlightening on the global challenges we face, that can give me something to ponder, to learn something new. Especially if we are talking about electing the leader of the free world.

Someone with the foresight to see the potential of forging alliances with nations such as Brazil and India - the emerging mega-democracies of the global south, through free trade and concerted action against common threats to shared values.

Someone who sees the use of both "hard" and "soft" power - of the complex relations between nations - of economics, energy, the environment, and national security.

It does seem to me that both Bill Clinton and G W Bush did accomplish some good things internationally. But in many ways, they also left our next president one hell of a mess to clean up after.

Senators have not often won the presidency, but this year it is much more likely than not that a Senator will be elected - either Obama, Clinton, Edwards or McCain. If we are to elect a Senator to be our President, we should seize the oppurtunity to elect that Senator who most represents what is most valuable in a good Senator - a record of reaching out to create alliances, and a deep understanding of the policy challenges we face in the world today.
John McCain is in this sense, the most Senatorial, the candidate who best understands the threats we face while also seeing the opportunities that must be seized today for the sake of the future.

Daniel Drezner, who has come pretty close to endorsing McCain, has remarked:

McCain, more than any other candidate, gets the connection between trade policy and foreign policy. He explicitly connects improving America's image in Latin America and ratifying the bevy of trade agreements from that region.
The Economist has also recognized McCain's judgement:
He knows as much about foreign affairs and military issues as anybody in public life. Or take judgment. True, he has a reputation as a hothead. But he's a hothead who cools down. He does not nurse grudges or agonise about vast conspiracies like some of his colleagues in the Senate. He has also been right about some big issues. He was the first senior Republican to criticise George Bush for invading Iraq with too few troops, and the first to call for Donald Rumsfeld's sacking. He is one of the few Republicans to propose sensible policies on immigration and global warming.
The flip side of McCain's maverick quality is that he's willing to reach out to make strategic partnerships, to place results over partisanship. This is the kind of quality that we need now in a President - someone who is willing to stand up against tyranny and terrorism while collaborating with other countries to achieve solutions that the UN has proved incapable of achieving; to provide leadership in the world while being a partner with other free societies to ensure national and international security and a realistic approach to defending human rights.

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