THE BLOG
02/12/2008 11:27 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Beware McCain's Foreign Policy

The knock on John McCain, besides his age and besides his rage, is he tends to care too much about foreign policy at the expense of domestic policy. To be sure, his candidacy was made possible by, besides the incompetence of his Republican competitors, the competency of David Petraeus's "surge" into Iraq. He is a war hero who firmly opposes torture. He sits on several committees devoted to foreign affairs. Let's face it: Unlike his rivals, he is no slouch when it comes to foreign policy.

But McCain's global agenda is not something that would be welcome in these troubling times. First, it is muddle-headed. He still insists that Iraq is the central front in the global war on terror. This despite the fact that a recent 60 Minutes interviewwith the FBI agent who spoke most intimately with Saddam before his death confirmed that the Baathist leader had nothing but hatred for global jihad or Osama bin Laden. Senator, as someone with so much foreign policy experience, doesn't it strike you as odd that Iraq is the central front in the GWOT and not, say, oh, I dunno, the Afghan-Pakistani border?

Second, McCain would do next to nothing to repair America's image in the world. Far from it. He seems hardly concerned with catering to American voters--something I actually admire about him--let alone the world's denizens who have turned American flag burning into a spectator sport. Why would McCain go out of his way to kiss the butts of foreign dignitaries after he's won the presidency? I fear McCain will step on toes and rub our allies the wrong way. He will stick his foot in his mouth and he will create needless conflicts. Europeans (and most of the world) hate Bush not just for his ignorance on foreign affairs but also his stubbornness. Wait until they meet John McCain.

Third, McCain is maybe Musharraf's last supporter in the world. "We must continue to work with President Pervez Musharraf to dismantle the cells and camps that the Taliban and al Qaeda maintain in his country," McCain wrote in Foreign Affairs last year. The Arizona Senator cannot seem to grasp that Musharraf is neither a democrat nor a reliable ally in the war on terror.

Fourth, I fear McCain harbors John Bolton-like views of the United Nations that may grow more extreme once the international community confronts his foreign policy as president. For instance, he favors something called the "League of Democracies" to, if not directly supplant the United Nations, which is full of pesky member nations who--gasp!--disagree with the United States, then to reduce the UN's power over Washington. This rubber-stamp body would needlessly complicate world affairs: Would a League of Democracies resolution allowing for a U.S. invasion of Iran be seen as legal under international law?

Fifth, McCain would give Russia the heave-ho from the Group of Eight (and maybe include India and Brazil instead). That sounds sensible enough. But though the G8 has become a meaningless talking shop that says a lot but does little due to bureaucratic overreach--every subject under the sun is fair game--Russia loves its seat at the table. To just boot it out, no questions asked, may not be sound policy--as it is one of the few trump cards we hold over Moscow (seeing how Russia will never join the EU or NATO). Plus, better to keep your friends close but your rivals closer.

Finally, contrary to the Council on Foreign Relations' Max Boot's claim in the Los Angeles Times that the presidential candidate who would "scare the snot out of our enemies is a certain former aviator who has been noted for his pugnacity and his unwavering support of the American war effort in Iraq," a McCain presidency would only make matters worse. Bush has already tried scaring our enemies and guess what--it didn't work.