Two Kinds of Change: Comparing the Candidates on Foreign Policy

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Few U.S. presidential elections have been decidedon the basis of foreign policy. For the first timein decades, however, both parties have fielded candidateswho have chosen to emphasize their foreignpolicy views.

With many Americans regretting the consequencesof the Bush administration’s foreign policy,a relatively large number of voters are expressinginterest in the topic. Accordingly, it is worthexamining the candidates’ views on the subject toattempt to determine what their foreign policieswould look like.

Republican John McCain, with his long stintin national politics, has attempted to frame theforeign policy issue around the question of experience.But evaluating McCain’s foreign policypositions reveals a candidate consistently dedicatedto confrontation, threats, and the use ofmilitary power.

Democrat Barack Obama, a new face on thenational scene, has chosen to emphasize the needfor change in the way in which U.S. foreign policyis conducted. Obama has called for more focus ondiplomacy, less on military action, and an end tothe “politics of fear.” However, an examination ofObama’s advisers and policy ideas makes it clearthat Obama is anything but a non‐​interventionist.

In the end, both candidates have significantflaws in their foreign policy ideas. Yet McCain’sapproach seems likely to amplify and repeat theerrors of the Bush administration. A PresidentMcCain would promise more provocation, moreintervention, and more strain on the military, thebudget, and the country.