Tuesday, May 27, 2008
First Reactions: McCain's Address
In these remarks, Senator McCain's pragmatic, realist side was very much on display. I am sure that commentators will be seeing this speech as a bookend and counterpoint to his Los Angeles speech (reflecting his idealistic/crusading side).
He doesn't use the term here, but one gets the impression that in dealing with the dangers of nuclear weapons, one can almost hear the concept "concert of powers" being echoed. There are threats that are existential in nature to all governments--free, not free and a mix of the two--and so common interests in reducing and eliminating these threats. He sees merit in proposals advanced by Russia (and by unnamed extension two leading non-democratic powers, China and Saudi Arabia) in coping with a whole host of issues, including dealing with Iran's program.
So, is this a reaction to consistent polling data that says Americans want a foreign policy that puts their safety as the main priority, rather than spreading freedom around the globe? An attempt to send the signal that U.S. policy would be conducted on the basis of sober interest? Is it meant to lay out some proposals for joint action that, if rejected by Moscow and Beijing and others, lends credence to the idea that we can't work with "the autocracies?"
Is this a move away from the Kagan/Return of History approach and an embrace of the Sutphen/Hachigian thesis that a concert approach works better (and doesn't alter the "balance in favor of freedom" that currently exists?)
What I do hope is that we don't have a belief in "compartmentalization"--e.g. we get concert of powers to deal with nuclear issues but then we can have a league of democracies to bypass the "autocracies" when it is convenient for us. Or that policy is going to be a 50/50 split between the "LA" and "Denver" visions. Or that we've embraced a Clintonian view that we can "do both". China in particular is not going to sign on to binding international regimes if it feels that the U.S. leaves backdoors to opt out of such structures when it is convenient for DC.
Given my continued interest in Indian affairs, also no word also in the speech as to what happens with the India-US nuclear deal in the event of a McCain victory. AND MY MISTAKE: I assumed this would be in the section on the NPT. The Senator follows in the next paragraph that "I support the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Accord as a means of strengthening our relationship with the world's largest democracy."
Finally, a note on rhetoric. I was struck by some of the similarities to Senator Obama's April 2007 speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Both talked about U.S. global leadership being exercised in assembling an interest-based coalition of states to respond to threats. Even more interesting is their apparent overlap on Russia. Two quotes:
Obama: We know that Russia is neither our enemy nor close ally right now, and we shouldn’t shy away from pushing for more democracy, transparency, and accountability in that country. But we also know that we can and must work with Russia to make sure every one of its nuclear weapons and every cache of nuclear material is secured.
McCain: While we have serious differences, with the end of the Cold War, Russia and the United States are no longer mortal enemies. As our two countries possess the overwhelming majority of the world's nuclear weapons, we have a special responsibility to reduce their number. ... There are other areas in which we can work in partnership with Russia to strengthen protections against weapons of mass destruction.
So, a consensus view? We have a "values gap" with Russia but let's base relations with Moscow on interest?
Fortunately, the Republicans in Congress are postured for a thorough and well-deserved flogging this November, so McCain will have no mandate and little power to actually cause more wars.