Point/Counterpoint: The candidates on foreign policy

Obama

By Matthew Ellison

While many voters are choosing Barack Obama because they prefer his domestic policies to John McCain’s, his foreign policies are also much better.

Obama was against the tragically misguided Iraq War from the start, while McCain said it would be easy. Moving forward, Obama is the only candidate with a plan to redeploy our troops responsibly and focus on the political and economic solutions needed to maintain peace and stability as we leave. His support of a timeline is shared by the Iraqi government and even the Bush administration. McCain is the odd man out on this issue, and he is wrong.

Unfortunately, as troops leave Iraq, many will have to go to Afghanistan. The Bush administration took its eye off the ball there, and we need to refocus our efforts. Even Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, has said the biggest threat from al-Qaida comes from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Obama has been saying as much for years. As president, he will work to support the Karzai government, marginalize the Taliban and kill or capture all those committed to America’s destruction, including Osama bin Laden. This can only be done if we begin to leave Iraq, which McCain is not willing to do.

Iran is undoubtedly a major threat that has grown over the last eight years. Obama agrees with McCain on a crucial point: Iran must not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon. Where the candidates differ is on how to prevent this unacceptable scenario. Obama supports tough high-level diplomacy without preconditions to show Iran that a bomb is not in their interests. This may not work, but we lose nothing by trying. McCain seeks to isolate Iran and hope it will magically change its behavior. Both candidates will ultimately use force if needed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but Obama’s policy makes this worst possible outcome significantly less likely.

There are many more specific foreign policy issues on which Obama has shown superior judgment or has a superior record (Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nuclear proliferation, McCain’s absurd League of Democracies idea, etc.). In seriously examining all of these, it becomes clear that the two candidates possess dramatically different foreign policy worldviews. Obama knows that there is a very small minority of individuals who hate us and who are committed to our destruction, and he is committed to their destruction. But he also knows that the world is a complicated place with complicated actors, and collaboration achieves better results than confrontation, especially in the war of ideas in which we are currently engaged. McCain, like Bush, sees the world in absolutes and other international players as “either with us or against us.”

Sadly, as we have seen, to the detriment of our national security, this often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Only Obama has the judgment to be an effective commander-in-chief on day one.

Matthew Ellison is a junior in Branford College and the registrar of voters for the

Yale College Democrats.


McCain

By Brad Galiette

The challenges facing our country on the global stage require skilled leadership from someone with broad and varied experience in foreign policy. John McCain — who has the background of serving in America’s armed services, the wisdom of spending over two decades leading diplomatic initiatives in Congress, and the vantage point of seeing our country through threatening times — is a proven foreign policy leader who has the credentials to address America’s current global challenges.

McCain’s record in foreign policy is second to none. He has seen firsthand the realities — and, indeed, the harsh consequences — of what can happen when our nation engages in battle. He was taken hostage in the Vietnam War, has served as an armed services liaison to the United States Senate, has participated in countless meetings with foreign dignitaries, and has served in Congress for decades, where he has been a member of the Armed Services Committee.

In short, McCain understands our country’s military and other foreign policy arms, and he was sought out for his advice on these topics years before Senator Obama began law school. While Senator Obama admirably has dedicated much of his career to helping ensure that Americans are not deprived of their fundamental rights, his inexperience in the Senate — where he has served for less than four years — and his limited background representing the United States in front of foreign administrations raise questions about his ability to address foreign policy issues as commander in chief.

McCain also has a solid plan for our foreign policy objectives. He believes in making sure we do everything possible to keep America safe. McCain will increase support for the intelligence community to make sure that we always receive the most accurate, actionable information possible in order to make the best decisions for America’s future. Additionally, he will seek new, unprecedented levels of support from the international community in pursuing foreign policy objectives. As someone who is widely known and respected among foreign leaders, McCain has the immediate credibility to bring fellow nations to the table to address challenges as broad as the war on terror and as specific as ending the genocide in Darfur. And while McCain will seek international support wherever he can, he will also ensure that we are protecting ourselves at home by bolstering investments in border security and missile defense programs, while at the same time supporting initiatives for renewable energy alternatives so that we are less dependent on the instability of foreign oil producers.

Yalies have long expressed deep concern for foreign policy issues on many fronts, and this year’s presidential election will undoubtedly mirror this trend. But there is an ideal choice for president in the current environment: someone who brings both foreign policy experience and a history of working tirelessly to resolve conflict.

Brad Galiette is a first-year student at the School of Management, a 2008 graduate of Yale College, president of Yale for McCain and a former director of finance for the News.

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