More on the Meaning of McCain’s Response to Georgia

Following up on my post about McCain’s response to the Georgia war, Andrew Sullivan more elegantly makes the point that I was clumsily attempting to make in referencing that Belgravia Dispatch post on Wednesday. Here’s Sullivan:

No one should doubt that McCain’s heart is in the right place. McCain long championed the persecuted people of Iraq; and he came to the defense of the beleaguered Bosnians. He is passionate about Burma and Darfur. You name a lost cause and he will rally to it. . . .

His position on Georgia makes much more sense if you see it in this context. . .

That the world and America might need other virtues in the current global context does not occur to him. That these often admirably intentioned crusades might require more prudential reasoning, restrained caution and delicate diplomacy is not in his play-book. What Americans have to decide is whether, after the last seven years, this kind of with-us-or-against-us crusade against enemies near and far is the right approach to the current crisis. or whether it is part of the reason we are already in so deep.

As I’ve said before, it continues to astound me that neither candidate has embraced a more thoroughly realist approach to U.S. foreign policy, which, to me at least, is so clearly what the moment requires. On both policy specifics and character, Obama, almost by default, seems to be beating out McCain for the mantle of the foreign policy realist in the race. Obama’s occasional embrace of the more utopian aspects of liberal internationalist policy sometimes make me worry, but his character seems more and more to be pragmatic and cautious.

McCain, on the other hand, was quite a solid foreign policy realist early on in his career, and remnants of that outlook remain in his foreign policy platform. But the aspects of his character that Sullivan alludes to above, together with a political calculation that he needs to be seen by the American people as the “hawk” — whatever that means — in this race, seems to have pushed him more and more away from a foreign policy that is informed foremost by American interests toward one that is all about American values.

As editor of this publication, perhaps I should note that World Politics Review doesn’t do endorsements, and I remain open to persuasion that I’m getting McCain all wrong, and I’m willing to listen on the other hand if someone wants to argue that I’ve got him right, and indeed that’s what American foreign policy needs right now. Those wanting to make either argument, drop us a line. If it’s good, we’ll publish it on this blog.

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