Thursday, September 11, 2008


A maddening article by John C. Danforth and Philip Bobbitt asking questions of McCain's and Obama's respective foreign policies. Among the lowlights.

"1. ... Would you launch large-scale armed attacks against terrorist in Pakistan if the new government there is unwilling -- or unable -- to suppress these groups and refuses to give United States forces permission to act?"
For starters, Obama already answered this question (yes) and so apparently has Bush. But ultimately, this is obviously a case-by-case call. Clearly, all the candidates involved are willing to throw Pakistan's sovereignty into the well for a little while to nab the worst of the worst. The main difference is whether they have enough common sense to know that such tactics have a serious risk of backfiring and should only be used as a last resort, and to catch the most dangerous individuals?

"2. [Regarding Darfur], are you prepared to announce the rules for American intervention for humanitairan purposes and, if so, what would those rules be?"
A maddening question, because no president can say, in this climate, that no we won't do a doggone thing about genocide. But no one of any credibility (exception, Joe Biden) thinks that military force, particularly American or NATO military force, can do squat in Darfur. Ends are one thing, but without means they're meaningless. The means to stop the Darfur conflict by force really aren't there. The entire idea of "humanitarian intervention" is bunk.

3. How long should troops remain in Iraq?
Jeez, guys, have you be reading the news? Both candidates have been pretty freaking specific about their intentions here.

"4. Would you authorize the use of force ... top prevent Iran from developing nuclear ewapons if it appears that diplomatic efforts are failing to bring about substantial progress in this regard?"
Both of these guys, whatever jobs they are currently holding, should be fired at this point. This is THE WRONG FREAKING QUESTION, GUYS. The two questions you should ask are: 1. Will you attempt diplomatic efforts in the first place? (Obama will, McCain won't.) 2. If those efforts fail, will you authorize a full-scale American invasion involving hundreds of thousands of American troops to stop Iran's nuclear program? Because airstrikes, as has been said again and again, are not an effective nuclear deterrent now that Iran has effectively mastered the nuclear fuel cycle. It will delay their program by months or a year or two at most, at the cost of all outside knowledge or IAEA supervision of their nuclear program. This "will we use force or not" argument is dangerously misleading. "Force" to stop Iran involves a full-scale invasion larger than Iraq and Afghanistan combined. If that's what we want, let's talk about that, and not prevaricate with fictitious dreams of quick fixes via airstrikes. McCain who said "the only thing worse than war with Iran is a nuclear-armed Iran" has given his answer. He'd send in American troops. Obama has given his answer. He'd talk to the Iranians first to stop it from coming to that point. THAT is the defining difference in this election. Moving on.

6. "In light of the United States Security Council inaction in Bosnia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and elsewhere, critics ahve said that the United Nations is not an effective instrument for confronting rogue states, terror and genocide. Do you favor expanding NATO [or other alternatives]?"
Holy crap, where do I begin? The Council didn't act on Bosnia or Rwanda in large part because of Clinton prevaricating over the use of force. In Cambodia, the US took the side of the Khmer Rouge in the United Nations. Zimbabwe is an internal issue of a stolen election by a terrible, despotic or ethnically domineering regime. Uh, guess what? There's a lot of those in Africa. Kenya and Nigeria didn't come to the Council, and Zimbabwe should not have either. IT'S NOT A COUNCIL ISSUE. People who try to write New York Times articles about the United Nations should be required to read the UN Charter in advance. I don't care if they were former Ambassadors (hello, John C. Danforth).

8. Finally, a good question. Would you try to restore Georgian sovereignty over South Ossetia and Abkhazia?
For the love of God, I hope not.

Anyway, the rest of the article is straightforward, but it was frontloaded with so much incompetence that I had to weigh in. Have a nice day.

(update) a far better, and shorter, list of questions for the nominees can be found here. Thank you, Foreign Affairs. (These questions are, specifically, for Sarah Palin, given her complete lack of any foreign policy experience/statements/publicly known views at this time, but for the most part they're good for everybody.)

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