Archive for February, 2008

Romney Withdraws from Presidential Race

February 9, 2008

Two days ago, Mitt Romney announced that he is withdrawing from the presidential race, thereby insuring that John McCain will be the Republican nominee for president in the general election.  Here is McCain’s foreign policy platform as evidenced by his answers to questions posed by the Washington Post:

 

Do you support setting a deadline for either a withdrawal or a partial pullback of troops from Iraq? If so, what would be the date of that deadline?

Today, Americans are fighting bravely in battles that are as dangerous, difficult and consequential as the great battles of our armed forces’ storied past. In Iraq, I know the war has not gone well, and the American people have grown tired of it. I, too, have been made sick at heart by the many mistakes made by civilian and military commanders and the terrible price we have paid for them. I want our troops home too, but I want our troops to return home with honor and in victory. We cannot react to past mistakes by embracing calls to begin troop withdrawals or to revive our previous failed strategy of a partial troop pullback that will be an even greater mistake, a mistake of colossal historical proportions, which will seriously weaken American security.

What distinguishes your plan for Iraq from those of the other candidates?

Presidential candidates argue for the course of cutting our losses and withdrawing in the vain hope it will improve American security. I cannot join them in such wishful and dangerous thinking. I believe that their approach would make the world a more dangerous place and weaken American security. For many years I warned about the erosion of security in Iraq and called for a different strategy that would give us the best chance to succeed. Because our troops were spread too thin, I urged a larger ground force in Iraq to implement a new counterinsurgency campaign like the one now underway in Iraq. Today, we have new commanders in Iraq, and they are following a new course we should have been following from the beginning, which makes the most effective use of our strength and doesn’t strengthen the tactics of our enemy. This new battle plan is succeeding in places where our previous tactics failed. Although the outcome remains uncertain, General Petraeus deserves adequate time to salvage from the wreckage of our past mistakes a measure of stability for Iraq and the Middle East, and a more secure future for the American people. Premature troop withdrawals or redeployment would not advance peace. It would strengthen al Qaeda and boost recruitment in their ranks, empower Iran and other hostile powers, unleash a full-scale civil war in Iraq that could quite possibly provoke genocide there, and destabilize the entire region as neighboring powers aid of their favored factions. The consequences would threaten us for years, and I am certain would eventually draw us into a wider and more difficult conflict. Our defeat in Iraq would be catastrophic, not just for Iraq, but for us. I believe that as long as we have a chance to succeed we must try to succeed.

What would be your top three national security priorities if you were elected?

Defeating radical Islamist extremists is the national security challenge of our time. At home, my administration will be fully prepared to deter, detect, and respond to any attack. But we must stay on offense. The 9/11 attack highlighted a failure to adequately respond to a hostile global terror network. Before 9/11, al Qaeda was basically free to plan, train, and conduct attacks from Afghanistan-despite bombing US embassies and attacking the USS Cole. As president, I will not allow such terrorist sanctuary. We must never again assume that the activities of extremists overseas do not impact our own security, which is why we must succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But prevailing in this struggle will require more than military power. I would employ every tool possible to help moderate Muslims resist the well-financed campaign of extremism that is tearing their societies apart. I would also seek a Free Trade Area from Morocco to Afghanistan, open to all who do not sponsor terrorism. Secondly, I will act to break our dependency on foreign oil. Al Qaeda continues to plan attacks on oil facilities hoping to skyrocket oil prices and nosedive the American economy. We cannot continue to enrich the foreign oil cartel and petro-dictators. In fact, some of our gas dollars flow to the very fanatics we are fighting. As President, I’ll implement an energy strategy of diversification and conservation to break the dominance of oil in our transportation sector. For example, my agenda will include deploying more technologies to improve energy efficiency, developing alternative fuels, increasing electrical power generation from nuclear power and other sources and increasing domestic oil production in environmentally friendly ways. I will also push for a worldwide League of Democracies. It could act where the UN fails, principally because of the vetoes of autocratic states. The UN has proven to be ineffective in meeting the great challenges of our time. The League would not supplant the UN but would harness the political and moral advantages offered by united democratic action. Whether pressuring tyrants in Burma or Zimbabwe or Sudan or Syria, uniting to impose sanctions on Iran and North Korea to stem nuclear proliferation, or supporting struggling democracies in Ukraine and Serbia, the League would advance freedom and opportunity. As president, I would call a summit of the world’s democracies in my first year–just as America led sixty years ago in creating the NATO alliance.

McCain’s positions on these issues are honorable and well-intentioned but wrongheaded.  His insistence that the US military remain in Iraq indefinitely (McCain once said that the US troops should stay in Iraq for “100 years” if they are needed to maintain a certain level of security in the country) to attempt to achieve stability ignores the fact that long term stability cannot be achieved unless Iraqis settle outstanding political issues such as distribution of oil revenues, the status of Kirkuk, regional autonomy and sectarian integration in the government and security forces.  Thus far, the Iraqis have been unable to settle these problems, and a continued American military presence will not help solve them.  The negative consequences of withdrawing that McCain warns about may very well come to pass, but the US can only delay such outcomes temporarily if the Iraqis are determined to fight one another once the US leaves.  However, his contention that exiting from Iraq will strengthen Al Qaeda and boost its recruitment is merely speculative given the fact that many experts believe that America’s occupation of Iraq has done exactly what McCain claims a withdrawal would do; moreover, the US military commitment in Iraq has strengthened Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan where its main base has been since the mid 1990s. 

 

McCain’s suggestion that bringing US soldiers home now would deprive them of honor and victory is absurd.  America’s fighting men and women have done everything they could possibly do in Iraq despite a lack of sufficient resources and changes in political objectives.  The US military toppled Saddam’s regime, discovered that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and gave the Iraqis the opportunity to set up a democratic form of government and reach a political accord.  Nothing else can reasonably be expected from military forces.  The American military will not be diminished whether it departs from Iraq now or many years from now.

 

McCain’s claim that he will break America’s dependence on foreign oil is delusional and demonstrates a lack of understanding of the world economy.  The US imports 70 percent of the oil it consumes.  Substantially reducing that amount over the next few years is unfeasible given the current production levels of alternative forms of energy and the amount of time that it would take for the new sources to come online.  Furthermore, America’s economy is highly affected by the price of oil, which is a global commodity.  European and Asian countries are heavily dependent on oil from the Middle East (Japan imports 90 percent of its oil from that region), so they will continue to buy it from there even if America increases domestic energy production.  The increasing world demand for oil will continue to drive up prices and weaken the global economy, which in turn will inevitably harm the US economy.  Until the rest of the world is no longer dependent on foreign oil the US will continue to be dependent on it, directly or indirectly.

 

McCain’s proposal to create a “League of Democracies” is intriguing.  It would be interesting to see if other countries would support and be willing to join such a club.  Although McCain states that it would not be an attempt to supplant the UN, it seems like McCain would like to marginalize the organization which he says has “proven to be ineffective in meeting the global challenges of our time.”  The roles that he envisions the League would play on the international scene are exactly the same ones that the UN currently fills, however imperfectly, such as imposing economic sanctions on rogue states, castigating tyrants and trying to support fledgling democracies.  Although the argument that the League would have greater moral legitimacy than the UN, which is filled with autocratic states, makes sense on a theoretical level, it is highly unclear if the international community would give greater deference to a body that excludes so many countries.  Perhaps the possibility of joining the League would persuade some countries to embrace democratic reforms like the membership requirements of NATO and the EU have done, which would certainly be a positive development.

 

 

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