John McCain had an interesting appearance on the Charlie Rose show earlier this week. His knowledge of the various U.S. national security issues was impressive and, as Rose pointed out, it is indeed strange that in the race for the Republican nomination Rudy Giuliani has somehow managed so easily to steal the mantle of the candidate with national security bona fides from McCain. (With the way she so deftly pounced on Obama’s recent perceived gaffes on foreign policy, it’s clear Clinton is establishing herself as the “national security candidate” on the Democratic side).
At the very beginning of the interview, Rose asked McCain what he thought the most important problem facing the next president will be. It’s not surprising that McCain said it would be how to fight and win the battle against Islamic extremism. But what McCain said next is surprising.
“The most important part is the use of cyberspace,” McCain said. “We didn’t win the Cold War by a tank battle on the plains of Germany with the Soviet Union. We won because we won the ideological battle of ideas. And we’re not using cyberspace with the effectiveness that they [the terrorists] are, frankly. . . . We’re going to have to come up with ways to replicate only with modern technology [what] we did with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. . . . We have got to describe to them why our values are superior.”
When Rose pressed McCain for specifics on how to do that, he was rather vague. But still, this is an interesting development. It’s the first time I’ve heard a presidential candidate mention this good idea, and one wonders if it’s something he has just recently hit on — it’s not mentioned at all in his national security platform on his Web site). I’m not in the business of endorsing candidates, but as an advocate of using technology as a key tool in the ideological battle against violent Islamism, I hope McCain sticks with it, and fleshes out some particulars of a cyberspace strategy.
Below is the video of the interview. The statement about cyberspace starts at 4 minutes 18 seconds: