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September 15, 2008

McCain's Foreign Policy to the Right of Bush
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Dan Eggen has a page-two piece in today's Washington Post examining how the Bush administration’s second term foreign policy shifts have moved him towards a world-view more in line with Barack Obama’s than John McCain’s:

Barack Obama contends that a John McCain presidency would amount to little more than President Bush's third term. But as it turns out, an Obama presidency might look a bit like Bush's second.

On a range of major foreign policy issues over the past year, Bush has pursued strategies and actions very much along the lines of what Sen. Obama has advocated during his presidential race, according to the Illinois Democrat's campaign and many diplomatic and security experts.

Amongst the shifts:

  • The administration has pushed ahead with high-level diplomatic negotiations with Iran and North Korea.
  • Agreed to a "time horizon" for a reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq
  • Announced plans last week to shift troops and other resources from Iraq to
  • Afghanistan. Authorized cross-border raids into Pakistan without that government's approval -- an idea that Obama first endorsed, and was heavily criticized for, last year.
  • A measured and tempered response to the crisis in Georgia, including a $1 billion aid package for Georgia that was similar to a proposal previously made by Obama and Biden

I would add one more. As evidenced in the campaign staff of both Obama and McCain, most of the Bush foreign policy cheerleaders from the first term (cough*neocons*cough) are now firmly entrenched in McCain's foreign policy "team," to the extent there is one.  The Randy Scheunemanns and Robert Kagans of the world, those who long advocated war in Iraq at any cost, are driving and formulating McCain's foreign policy agenda, and simply further emboldening McCain's penchant for bellicosity.  Meanwhile, the neocons have been jettisoned from the White House, replaced by a culture of relative moderation, diplomacy and cautiousness. Dick Cheney and his cabal have been largely marginalize while the Condi Rice and Robert Gates faction have been empowered. This, more than anything else, has led to the policy shifts desdcribed in Eggan's piece. It's not so much a shift towards Obama, but a move towards a more sane, realist and pragmatic foreign policy approach. It just so happens that Obama advocates those three tenets in his global philosophy. McCain is not only an outlier, if he were part of the Bush administration, he would have already been marginalized and rendered irrelevant like the rest of the anachronistic and dangerous neocon cult. Which, as NSN Rand Beers President said in the Eggen piece, means:

"...that a McCain presidency would look a lot like a Bush first term and a move back in that direction…The flip side of that is that John McCain is therefore to the right of George Bush.”

America and the world simply can't afford a regression to all that. And this is what makes Sarah Palin's pick that much more frightening:

Comments by the governor of Alaska in her first television interview, in which she said Nato may have to go to war with Russia and took a tough line on Iran's nuclear programme, were the result of two weeks of briefings by neoconservatives.

Sources in the McCain camp, the Republican Party and Washington think tanks say Mrs Palin was identified as a potential future leader of the neoconservative cause in June 2007. That was when the annual summer cruise organised by the right-of-centre Weekly Standard magazine docked in Juneau, the Alaskan state capital, and the pundits on board took tea with Governor Palin.

A former Republican White House official, who now works at the American Enterprise Institute, a bastion of Washington neoconservatism, admitted: "She's bright and she's a blank page. She's going places and it's worth going there with her."

Asked if he sees her as a "project", the former official said: "Your word, not mine, but I wouldn't disagree with the sentiment."

I wonder what the buffet is like on a neocon cruise...


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Here's the key - Obama's presidency may resemble Bush's second term (or vice versa), but Obama will be doing it with a full stock of political capital to burn.

Here's the key - Obama's presidency may resemble Bush's second term (or vice versa), but Obama will be doing it with a full stock of political capital to burn.

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