If, God forbid, foreign policy had to be the deciding factor in choosing between Barack Obama and John McCain, then last night’s terrible showing by Obama would make me a Ralph Nader voter in a heartbeat. Obama’s performance was nothing short of pathetic, and only a Democratic-leaning analysts and voters with blinders on could suggest that Obama won the debate. More important, he utterly blew a chance to draw a stark contrast with John McCain on America’s approach to the world.
He checked all the boxes. Barack (“Senator McCain is right”) Obama couldn’t find anything to disagree with the militarist Arizonan about. Support for NATO expansion? Check. Absurd anti-Russian diatribes? Check. Dramatic escalation of the war in Afghanistan? Check. I’m ready to attack Pakistan? Check. (Actually, on this one, McCain was the moderate!) Painful sanctions against Iran, backed up by the threat of force? Check. Blathering about the great threat from Al Qaeda? Check. It went on and on.
Here’s Obama on Afghanistan:
Yes, I think we need more troops. I’ve been saying that for over a year now.
And I think that we have to do it as quickly as possible, because it’s been acknowledged by the commanders on the ground the situation is getting worse, not better. … So I would send two to three additional brigades to Afghanistan.
Obama on invading Pakistan:
You’ve got cross-border attacks against U.S. troops. And we’ve got a choice. We could allow our troops to just be on the defensive and absorb those blows again and again and again, if Pakistan is unwilling to cooperate, or we have to start making some decisions. … You don’t muddle through the central front on terror and you don’t muddle through going after bin Laden. You don’t muddle through stamping out the Taliban.
When McCain bumbled by calling Iran’s Revolutionary Guard the “Republican Guard” (that would be the name of Saddam Hussein’s elite force, not Iran’s), Obama bumbled along, stupidly agreeing that the Guard is a “terrorist” group:
I believe the Republican Guard of Iran is a terrorist organization. I’ve consistently said so. What Senator McCain refers to is a measure in the Senate that would try to broaden the mandate inside of Iraq. To deal with Iran.
Sure, Obama said he would talk to Iran, but so did McCain. And they both cast Iran policy as related to US support for Israel, our “stalwart ally,” Obama said. Like Sarah Palin, Obama isn’t about to second-guess Israel.
On Russia, Obama acknowledged that the US can’t go back to a Cold War posture, and then he proceeded to do so, sounding exactly like McCain:
A resurgent and very aggressive Russia is a threat to the peace and stability of the region.
Their actions in Georgia were unacceptable. They were unwarranted. And at this point, it is absolutely critical for the next president to make clear that we have to follow through on our six-party — or the six-point cease-fire. They have to remove themselves from South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
It is absolutely important that we have a unified alliance and that we explain to the Russians that you cannot be a 21st-century superpower, or power, and act like a 20th-century dictatorship.
And we also have to affirm all the fledgling democracies in that region, you know, the Estonians, the Lithuanians, the Latvians, the Poles, the Czechs, that we are, in fact, going to be supportive and in solidarity with them in their efforts. They are members of NATO.
And to countries like Georgia and the Ukraine, I think we have to insist that they are free to join NATO if they meet the requirements, and they should have a membership action plan immediately to start bringing them in.
He added, for good measure: “I think Senator McCain and I agree for the most part on these issues.” No criticism at all of McCain’s idiotic concept of a League of Democracies, which McCain touted last night. No criticism at all of McCain’s thundering demand to kick Russia out of the G-8.
On torture, Obama totally blew it. “I give Senator McCain great credit on the torture issue, for having identified that as something that undermines our long-term security,” said Obama last night. Come again? This is the McCain who supports waterboarding, who wouldn’t force the CIA to adhere to military standards about torture. Did you miss that, Senator Obama?
Where was Obama’s criticism of the “Bush doctrine” — you know, that thing that Palin likes, about shooting first and asking questions later? Where was Obama’s vision of an effort to reach out to Muslim countries with a new vision of US-Muslim cooperation? What about casting the principle challenge of foreign policy in terms of hunger, disease, lack of housing and access to clean water, that plagues the Third World and drives desperate people to violence?