John McCain recently gave a major foreign policy speech. Here are some instructive excerpts:
President Harry Truman once said of America, "God has created us and brought us to our present position of power and strength for some great purpose." In his time, that purpose was to contain Communism and build the structures of peace and prosperity that could provide safe passage through the Cold War. Now it is our turn.
In such a world, where power of all kinds is more widely and evenly distributed, the United States cannot lead by virtue of its power alone. We must be strong politically, economically, and militarily. But we must also lead by attracting others to our cause, by demonstrating once again the virtues of freedom and democracy, by defending the rules of international civilized society and by creating the new international institutions necessary to advance the peace and freedoms we cherish. Perhaps above all, leadership in today's world means accepting and fulfilling our responsibilities as a great nation.
One of those responsibilities is to be a good and reliable ally to our fellow democracies. We cannot build an enduring peace based on freedom by ourselves, and we do not want to. We have to strengthen our global alliances as the core of a new global compact -- a League of Democracies -- that can harness the vast influence of the more than one hundred democratic nations around the world to advance our values and defend our shared interests.
At the heart of this new compact must be mutual respect and trust. Recall the words of our founders in the Declaration of Independence, that we pay "decent respect to the opinions of mankind." Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed. We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies. When we believe international action is necessary, whether military, economic, or diplomatic, we will try to persuade our friends that we are right. But we, in return, must be willing to be persuaded by them.
America must be a model citizen if we want others to look to us as a model. How we behave at home affects how we are perceived abroad. We must fight the terrorists and at the same time defend the rights that are the foundation of our society. We can't torture or treat inhumanely suspected terrorists we have captured. I believe we should close Guantanamo and work with our allies to forge a new international understanding on the disposition of dangerous detainees under our control.
There is such a thing as international good citizenship. We need to be good stewards of our planet and join with other nations to help preserve our common home. The risks of global warming have no borders. We and the other nations of the world must get serious about substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years or we will hand off a much-diminished world to our grandchildren. We need a successor to the Kyoto Treaty, a cap-and-trade system that delivers the necessary environmental impact in an economically responsible manner. We Americans must lead by example and encourage the participation of the rest of the world, including most importantly, the developing economic powerhouses of China and India.
Notable is the mention of the Truman doctrine above, which, as Scott mentioned in his highly recommended Islamist Entanglement lecture series, committed us to unlimited assistance to anybody fighting communism. I'm afraid this is quite far from a foreign policy of self-interest and it follows on the footsteps of a Bush foreign policy that, far from being as unilateralist as left-wing critics have claimed, has in fact gone out of its way to be multilateral, as today's Wall Street Journal editorial clearly shows:
Iraq is where the unilateral myth settled into media concrete. But in fact, in 2002 President Bush bucked the advice of his more hawkish advisers and agreed to take Tony Blair's advice and seek another U.N. Resolution -- was it the 16th or 17th? -- against Saddam Hussein.
...the "coalition of the willing" that liberated Iraq included, besides the U.S. contingent, some 60,000 troops from 39 countries, who have operated under a U.N. resolution blessing their presence.
The Bush Administration has since become all too multilateralist, even -- or especially -- regarding the "axis of evil." On North Korea, the Administration adhered strictly to the six party formula.
As for Iran, following revelations in 2002 that Iran had secretly pursued an illegal nuclear program for 15 years, Mr. Bush agreed to hand over the diplomacy to Germany, Britain and France, the so-called E3.
Next the Administration succeeded in turning the matter over to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has been seeking answers about Tehran's nuclear file for five years.
For the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Administration arranged the so-called "road map," which is overseen by the "Quartet" of the U.S., Russia, the U.N., and the European Union. In Lebanon, the Administration worked closely with none other than France's Jacques Chirac to force the withdrawal of Syrian troops in 2005. With Russia, Mr. Bush welcomed its bid to join the World Trade Organization and has rebuffed suggestions -- including from Mr. McCain in his speech Wednesday -- that it be expelled from the G-8.
It is simply a myth that the Republican Party represents any kind of assertive foreign policy of self-interest. If a Democrat had done or suggested all the above policies this would be obvious. Since Republicans are doing it and couch it, at times at least, in somewhat more self-assertive language, it sounds better to many people. I certainly fell for it during the last election when I voted for Bush over Kerry but no more. Under no circumstances will I vote for John McCain. The only question now is whether it is in any way worthwhile to vote for the Democratic nominee. On that question I remain undecided. I have previously leaned toward abstaining but lately I've been thinking that it may be necessary to actively support a Democratic candidate by voting for him so as to ensure McCain's defeat. Then we can unite in opposing the Democrats policies. However, I'm not yet completely convinced by this line of reasoning.