Another View of McCain’s Foreign Policy

Those interested in Judah’s thought-provoking analysis of McCain’s foreign policy address in Los Angeles last week should also check out David Brooks’ March 28 column about the speech and McCain’s foreign policy views in general.

While Judah seems to argue (correct me if I’m wrong Judah) that McCain’s foreign policy vision, because he ultimately puts so much emphasis on democracy promotion, is really just neoconservatism dressed up in realist clothing, Brooks gives more credence to McCain’s attempts to fashion a foreign policy aimed at accomplishing idealistic ends with realistic means.

Judah objected most strongly to McCain’s statement that whether Iraq and Afganistan “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.”

I share a concern that a refusal to accept anything less than “stable democracies” in those two places will lead to endless war. But I am perhaps less convinced that Iraq and, especially, Afghanistan are already irretrievably lost. And I suspect that McCain, having staked his candidacy on the position that some kind of “victory” is possible in Iraq, finds it difficult to say, for fear of sending the wrong signal to our Iraqi allies, that anything less than “stable democracy” there is the goal.

In addition, given McCain’s frequent references to the Reagan model in fighting the Cold War, the speech on Lebanon which Brooks references, his rhetoric about what we’re now calling “smart power,” his early criticism of the conduct of the Iraq war, etc., I don’t share Judah’s concern that McCain’s brand of idealism will create, as Judah concludes, “the very real risk that force will be left as the only recourse to impose our vision of what the world needs.”