Who will help shape McCain, Obama foreign policy?
Both candidates would likely draw from previous administrations to build their teams.
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Both Rice and Mr. Lake – who has written “we were wrong” evaluations of the Rwanda response – have called for issuing the Sudanese government an ultimatum over what President Bush has called “genocide” in Sudan’s Darfur region: Either stop the violence or face US military intervention.
Citing the Clinton administration experience and the strength of human rights and other interest groups in the Democratic Party power base, Mr. Fullilove of the Brookings Institution says, “It’s a question out there as to whether it’s possible for any Democratic administration to be truly realist with a steady devotion to national interests, especially in the face of influential groups and party activists.”
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But if Obama would face conflicting foreign-policy pressures, McCain’s apparent preference for the more idealist wing in his advisory trust suggests he may have already settled any conflicts.
When McCain described himself as a “realistic idealist” in a major foreign-
policy speech last March, the words were supplied by Robert Kagan, a proponent of a muscular US foreign policy that works more closely with allies of like values. Mr. Kagan is also one of the minds behind McCain’s proposal for a “League of Democracies” using moral authority of the world’s democracies in addressing international crises.
Other neoconservative forces on his team include his chief foreign-policy adviser Rany Scheunemann, a former Republican Senate aide who was a prominent early advocate of going to war to depose Saddam Hussein; and national security analyst Max Boot.
But McCain also turns to a list of prominent figures from the Republican pragmatist camp including Lawrence Eagleburger, Henry Kissinger, and former Navy secretary John Lehman. Also advising McCain are Sen. Lindsay Graham, who has won the respect of Senate Democrats; and Richard Williamson, a State Department veteran who has been Bush’s special envoy to Sudan.
McCain’s closeness to Senate independent Democrat Joseph Lieberman – whom he considered as his vice president pick before aides convinced him it would repel the Republican base – underscores a focus on the battle with Islamic extremism. Senator Lieberman would very likely be tapped for a high-level national security post in a McCain White House.
McCain cites years of experience
Some of McCain’s aides, like Kagan, have said they do not foresee an ideological struggle in a McCain administration on the order of what occurred in the Bush administration because McCain’s worldview is established after years of experience. Other analysts point out that McCain’s quick and indeed harsh judgment of Russia after its summer invasion of Georgia exemplifies the kind of decisionmaker he would be.
“McCain feels very confident with making foreign-policy calls on his own; he doesn’t feel he needs to rely on others a lot about what to do, and we saw that in his response to the Russia-Georgia conflict,” says Wesleyan’s Mr. Foyle.
Indeed, one reason the advisers the candidates choose is an important gauge is that they suggest the inclination that might prevail when the inevitable unexpected events strike. “People are a good indicator,” says Henriksen, “because one thing we can be sure of is that in office, the candidates will do something different from what they said they would.”