Foreign Policy (Republican Party)

McCain hammers home the notion that he has been right all along about Iraq, from sacking Rumsfeld to surging into Baghdad. That is complete bunk. McCain has treated the war as a public relations stunt to boost his candidacy, from the "Mission Accomplished"-style walk through a Baghdad market last spring to the overly rosy picture painted by his gung-ho speeches on Iraq. The fact is, violence is down because of the ethnic cleansing of once-mixed neighborhoods and a bargain struck by a handful of Sunni elders in late 2006, not because of 20,000-or-so additional U.S. troops sent to Iraq. McCain is taking credit for something that was not his -- or the U.S. military's -- doing. In so doing, he is obscuring the fact that the war shows no signs of concluding. If no political reconciliation is reached by 2009, how can he then look Americans in the face and say that an escalation of the war was worth it? Obama should seize this opportunity to portray McCain as out-of-touch with average Americans but also with the reality on the ground in Iraq.

But he should be more specific on how he would exit Iraq. First, he should suggest staging an over-the-horizon force in Kurdistan to keep the peace there should the Turks decide to invade or the Kurds decide to secede. The Kurds are the only Iraqis practically begging us to build permanent bases there. Also, he should scrap timetables and benchmarks for Baghdad to meet, which just tells the average Iraqi that their government is a puppet of Washington. For the Iraqi government to gain credibility, it must be seen as independent of the Americans.

Secondly, on Iran, McCain is about as hawkish as they come. And that's dangerous. McCain's anti-Russian stance virtually guarantees that Moscow would not agree to any meaningful sanctions against Tehran. Meanwhile, Russians are the ones supplying Iranian reactors with their nuclear fuel. Go figure. Obama should present the case for negotiating directly with the Iranians on the issue of nukes (in addition to Iraq) at the level of foreign minister or higher (Obama should also clean house at the State Department, whose Iran desk is headed by a self-declared "neo-con"). I'm not saying he should cut the tape on a new American embassy in downtown Tehran, but reaching out to the Iranians just might halt their nuclear fuel cycle.

McCain is also hawkish on the war on terror and repeats the mantra that the struggle against Islamic extremism is the struggle of our generation. He might be right. But his views on this are a mixture of cold realism and ugly neo-conservatism. He would not close Guantanamo. He would not stop eavesdropping on U.S. citizens. He would use the GWOT guise to keep supplemental war spending packages at record levels. All Obama needs to say to the American people is "enough" -- we can win the war on terror without sacrificing our ideals as a nation of immigrants and going broke in the process.

Finally, in his ads Obama should loop footage of McCain calling Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf a "good ally" and a "very honest person" who has made "mistakes." Obama should advocate reaching out to the moderates that the Pakistani people just voted for, even at the risk of alienating the military establishment in Islamabad. For $10 billion, the Americans should get a better return on their investment. McCain would just keep cutting the checks, no questions asked.

All of which is a wordy way of saying: McCain is out of touch on the biggest foreign policy issues of the day. Obama promises a change of course, a fresh start to a foreign policy gone amok. He may not have served in uniform or known as many foreign leaders personally, but he understands that a continuation of Bush's bellicose policies abroad is the wrong way to go.

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John McCain: Iran Crisis Most Serious Since Cold War
Sen. John McCain said Sunday that Iran's bid for nuclear weapons is the most serious foreign policy crisis since the end of the Cold War.

"A nuclear capability in Iran is unacceptable," he told "Fox News Sunday."

Citing recent statements from Israeli defense officials, McCain said, "Put yourself in the position of the Israeli government. Your first obligation is to defend your people. And here's a country whose president calls for the eradication of your country from the map."

The Arizona Republican said that the Iranian nuclear program presents the U.S. with "the most serious crisis we have faced - outside of the entire war on terror - since the end of the Cold War."

McCain said he agreed with the Bush administration's decision to press for sanctions against Iran before the United Nation's Security Counsel, saying the move would force Moscow and Beijing to choose sides.
"If China and Russia want to be on record as being supportive of Iran in their nuclear ambitions, then I think that obviously has consequences as well," he warned.

The top 2008 presidential contender also argued that the U.S. must revive its nuclear power industry in order to free itself from energy dependence on countries run by "mullahs" and "wackos."

"We've got to get quickly on a track to energy independence from foreign oil," McCain told Fox. "And that means, among other things, going back to nuclear power."

McCain said that until the U.S. develops energy independence, "we better understand the vulnerabilities that the economy and our very lives have when we're dependent on Iranian mullahs and wackos in Venezuela."

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John McCain Warns of Iran 'Armageddon'
2008 presidential hopeful John McCain said Sunday that the consequences of a military conflict with Iran over that country's nuclear program could be so serious they could lead to "Armageddon."

The Arizona Republican issued his dire warning after saying that before any military option against Iran is exercised, the world community must first put maximum pressure on Tehran through sanctions.

"We're going to the United Nations Security Council with our European allies," he told NBC's "Meet the Press." "We are seeking sanctions . . . . We must have sanctions against Iran."

McCain said that if sanctions fail, the U.S. must be prepared to resort to the use of military force.

"Would it be a difficult military option?" he asked rhetorically. "Sure, it would be a difficult military option. But you cannot remove it from the table."

Asked by "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert if the U.S. might find itself embroiled in two wars at once, McCain responded point blank:
"I think we could have Armageddon."

Without elaborating his the dire warning, the former Vietnam POW said there was still a chance that sanctions might work.

"If we handle this right, and our European allies stand with us, and the Russians and the Chinese stand with us, sanctions might do the job. And I am confident that this administration will exhaust every effort before contemplating seriously a military option."

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Strategy for Victory in Iraq

The Importance of Succeeding

John McCain believes it is strategically and morally essential for the United States to support the Government of Iraq to become capable of governing itself and safeguarding its people. He strongly disagrees with those who advocate withdrawing American troops before that has occurred.

It would be a grave mistake to leave before Al Qaeda in Iraq is defeated and before a competent, trained, and capable Iraqi security force is in place and operating effectively. We must help the Government of Iraq battle those who provoke sectarian tensions and promote a civil war that could destabilize the Middle East. Iraq must not become a failed state, a haven for terrorists, or a pawn of Iran. These likely consequences of America's failure in Iraq almost certainly would either require us to return or draw us into a wider and far costlier war.

The best way to secure long-term peace and security is to establish a stable, prosperous, and democratic state in Iraq that poses no threat to its neighbors and contributes to the defeat of terrorists. When Iraqi forces can safeguard their own country, American troops can return home.

Support the Successful Counterinsurgency Strategy

John McCain has been a leading advocate of the “surge” and the counterinsurgency strategy carried out by General David Petraeus. At the end of 2006, four years of a badly conceived military strategy that concentrated American troops on large bases brought us near to the point of no return. Sectarian violence in Iraq was spiraling out of control. Al Qaeda in Iraq was on the offensive. Entire provinces were under extremists’ control and were deemed all but lost. At that critical moment, John McCain supported sending reinforcements to Iraq to implement a classic counterinsurgency strategy of securing the population.
That strategy has paid off. From June 2007 through March 2008, sectarian and ethnic violence in Iraq was reduced by 90 percent. Civilian deaths and deaths of coalition forces fell by 70 percent. This has opened the way for a return to something that approaches normal political and economic life for the average Iraqi. Political reconciliation is occurring across Iraq at the local and provincial grassroots level. Sunni and Shi'a chased from their homes by terrorist and sectarian violence are returning. The "Sons of Iraq" and Awakening movements, where former Sunni insurgents have now joined in the fight against Al Qaeda, continue to grow.

Those gains would be lost if we were to follow the policy advocated by Senator Barack Obama to withdraw most of our troops and leave behind only a small “strike force” to battle terrorists. That is, in essence, the same strategy of withdrawing from Iraq’s streets that failed in 2006. John McCain advocates continuing the successful counterinsurgency strategy that began in 2007.

Push for Political Reconciliation and Good Government

Thanks to the success of the surge, Iraq's political order is evolving in positive and hopeful ways. Four out of the six laws cited as benchmarks by the U.S. have been passed by the Iraqi legislature. A law on amnesty and a law rolling back some of the harsher restrictions against former employees of the Iraqi government have made it possible for Iraqis to move toward genuine reconciliation. The legislature has devolved greater power to local and provincial authorities, where much of the real work of rebuilding Iraq is taking place.

More progress is necessary. The government must improve its ability to serve all Iraqis. A key test for the Iraqi government will be finding jobs in the security services and the civilian sector for the “Sons of Iraq” who have risked so much to battle terrorists.

Iraq will conduct two landmark elections in the near future – one for provincial governments in late 2008 and the other for the national government in 2009. John McCain believes we should welcome a larger United Nations role in supporting the elections. The key condition for successful elections is for American troops to continue to work with brave Iraqis to allow the voting to take place in relative freedom and security. Iraqis need to know that the U.S. will not abandon them, but will continue to press their politicians to show the necessary leadership to help develop their country.

Get Iraq's Economy Back on its Feet

John McCain believes that economic progress is essential to sustaining security gains in Iraq. Markets that were once silent and deserted have come back to life in many areas, but high unemployment rates continue to fuel criminal and insurgent violence. To move young men away from the attractions of well-funded extremists, we need a vibrant, growing Iraqi economy. The Iraqi government can jump-start this process by using a portion of its budget surplus to employ Iraqis in infrastructure projects and in restoring basic services.

The international community should bolster proven microfinance programs to spur local-level entrepreneurship throughout the country. Iraq's Arab neighbors, in particular, should promote regional stability by directly investing the fruits of their oil exports in Iraq. As these efforts begin to take hold in Iraq, the private sector, as always, will create the jobs and propel the growth that will end reliance on outside aid. Iraq’s government needs support to better deliver basic services—clean water, garbage collection, abundant electricity, and, above all, a basic level of security—that create a climate where the Iraqi economy creation can flourish.

Call for International Pressure on Syria and Iran

Syria and Iran have aided and abetted the violence in Iraq for too long. Syria has refused to crack down on Iraqi insurgents and foreign terrorists operating within its territory. Iran has been providing the most extreme and violent Shia militias with training, weapons, and technology that kill American and Iraqi troops. American military spokesmen have also said there is evidence that Iran has provided aid to Sunni insurgents.

The answer is not unconditional dialogues with these two dictatorships from a position of weakness. The answer is for the international community to apply real pressure to Syria and Iran to change their behavior. The United States must also bolster its regional military posture to make clear to Iran our determination to protect our forces and deter Iranian intervention.

Level with the American People

John McCain believes it is essential to be honest with the American people about the opportunities and risks that lie ahead. The American people deserve the truth from their leaders. They deserve a candid assessment of the progress made in the last year, of the serious difficulties that remain, and of the grave consequences of a reckless and irresponsible withdrawal.

Many Americans have given their lives so that America does not suffer the worst consequences of failure in Iraq. Doing the right thing in the heat of a political campaign is not always easy. But it is necessary.

John McCain on the Road Ahead

“I do not want to keep our troops in Iraq a minute longer than necessary to secure our interests there. Our goal is an Iraq that can stand on its own as a democratic ally and a responsible force for peace in its neighborhood. Our goal is an Iraq that no longer needs American troops. And I believe we can achieve that goal, perhaps sooner than many imagine. But I do not believe that anyone should make promises as a candidate for President that they cannot keep if elected. To promise a withdrawal of our forces from Iraq, regardless of the calamitous consequences to the Iraqi people, our most vital interests, and the future of the Middle East, is the height of irresponsibility. It is a failure of leadership. “

“I know the pain war causes. I understand the frustration caused by our mistakes in this war. And I regret sincerely the additional sacrifices imposed on the brave Americans who defend us. But I also know the toll a lost war takes on an army and on our country's security. By giving General Petraeus and the men and women he has the honor to command the time and support necessary to succeed in Iraq we have before us a hard road. But it is the right road. It is necessary and just. Those who disregard the unmistakable progress we have made in the last year and the terrible consequences that would ensue were we to abandon our responsibilities in Iraq have chosen another road. It may appear to be the easier course of action, but it is a much more reckless one, and it does them no credit even if it gives them an advantage in the next election.” –John McCain

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~This page was assembled by Raewyn Duvall