24 December 2007

Senator McCain’s Written Words

If Senator Clinton’s essay in Foreign Affairs is long on bombastic rhetoric and short on specific plans, Senator McCain’s is its antithesis. He spends little time gratuitously reviewing the past and instead focuses on specific plans, policies and directions he would take American foreign policy if he were to be elected.

One of the most interesting and possibly most transformative ideas in the essay deals with reorganizing civilian and military coordination, presumably between the departments of State and Defense. Senator McCain wants “a civilian follow-on to the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act, which fostered a culture of joint operations within the military services.” This would not be small potatoes, nor would it be accomplished quickly. The long term upside is increasingly better coordination, something which was reportedly horrible in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion.

One thing of note here is that this is a big, far reaching idea which aims at a goal that will probably not be realized during a McCain presidency; probably not even a two term McCain presidency. Nevertheless, Senator McCain puts the idea out there, and it is certainly not the only one.

Senator McCain would also initiate a “League of Democracies” to “compliment” the United Nations. This is an idea which I feel is long overdue. The United Nations is overrun with less than democratic members who do not hold the same values as Western democracies.

He would also increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps by 150,000 troops. Again, this is a long-term project; a fact which he admits to in the essay and says “must be done as soon as possible.” Another project would be the creation of a “Army Advisory Corps of 10,000 soldiers to partner with militaries abroad”. A third would be the recreation of the U.S. Information Agency “with the sole purpose of getting American’s message to the world”.

Throughout the essay, one gets the idea that Senator McCain has put a great deal of thought and consideration into his foreign policy plan. Nothing in the essay feels half-baked or off the cuff. He sees and delineates clearly between allies (democracies), outright enemies (Islamic terrorists), not-so-nice actors (Russia), and those which could lean either way (China). Even regarding the environment, he makes what is an ultra-sane statement: “I will also greatly increase the use of nuclear power, a zero-emission energy source.” He immediately follows this statement up with a defense of free market development of future energy sources: “Given the proper incentives, our [American] innovators, scientists, entrepreneurs, and workers have the capability to lead the world in achieving energy security; given the stakes, they must.”

While I may not agree with Senator McCain on many domestic issues, particularly illegal immigration, I feel pretty comfortable with his positions on foreign policy as described in the essay. There has been some talk that if Senator McCain does not win the Republican nomination that he would be a shoe-in for Secretary of Defense. Perhaps a better spot for him would be at the Department of State, where a lot of heavy lifting will have to be done. Either spot would allow Senator McCain to lean on what I consider his strong suit: foreign policy.


Brad Marston said...

Vicki from my staff sent me the link to this excellent post. While there are many good candidates in the field with different strengths, it is Senator McCain that is strongest on foreign policy.

I have favorited your site and certainly plan to visit again.

Bob M. said...


Thanks for the comment. Good luck to Senator McCain in Iowa.