What would McCain do for the world?
With Senator McCain so far out ahead of Republican candidates, it is now possible to evaluate his role as president if he were to go on and win the presidency. As to the likelihood of that, one can only say nine months before, that nobody knows. Polling intentions this far away from November are completely unreliable. Another vital aspect of the competition, is which one of the two Democrats, Clinton or
Obama, will be his opponent. That may not be known until August, which gives McCain quite an advantage, affording him time to look and sound presidential, and build his campaign, whilst the two democratic front-runners in their laborious struggle for supremacy, will inevitably continue to damage each other.
It would probably be true to observe that if McCain were to win in November, he would take power in a situation where the Democratic Congress, the party, and Democrats in the country would be in trauma. Not to win in this years election, with a choice between two seemingly attractive candidates, and after eight disastrous years of a Republican administration, with the outgoing President considered by many to be perhaps the worst ever, is for the Democrats the worst possible nightmare.
The privacy of the polling booth where people will decide - not necessarily in the way they have told friends and pollsters - is a key element on the day itself. Will deep-seated prejudice against a woman or a black, as the nation's Chief Executive, whichever it might be (not admitted publicly perhaps, but there in the polling station), turn out to be a factor? Again, might US electors rise above not only gender and race, but also party politics, and ignore declared party positions, just to vote for the candidate they think might make the best president - the independent line - it is entirely possible.
But November will resolve that question. The purpose of this essay is to look at what might be expected to follow a McCain victory, not in terms of domestic policy but how in broad terms his White House would seek to follow the Bush years.
What indeed does a McCain presidency mean for the world?
It makes sense to first seek to understand what kind of a man and a politician he is. Mike
Huckabee, his principal remaining rival, probably too far behind now to pose a great threat, describes McCain as a moderate Republican whilst calling himself a conservative Republican. The term conservative, as distinct from Republican can be either a perjorative description when used by opponents, or an attempt to identify a body of policies and attitudes within or outside the GOP. McCain's Republican opponents accuse him of not being 'conservative enough' on the issues.
The spokesmen of this persuasion seem as proud of the label as though they alone are the only real Americans!
That expression 'conservative' is certainly elastic, as it can range from issues like taxation; socio-religious issues like stem-cell research and abortion; crime - and particularly punishment; immigration; lethal weapons licensing; free universal medical service; on most of which many Democrats might be expected to take an opposite view, and independents could not be universally
Obviously every policy area will be checked and 'worried' before the November election, but with McCain it seems that the conservatives won't be able to tick off ALL of these issues in the way that they would wish. The reptilian radio rabble-rouser, Rush Limbaugh, who personifies unelected power - and of course enthusiastically endorsed the inept
George.W. Bush - is virulently against McCain as not being reactionary enough on most of these issues, so that extremist element of the US body politic is deeply dissatisfied.
The religious right, another key area of support, will hardly get from McCain what they had from George W Bush - an eyes clenched-closed admission that Jesus Christ was his 'personal
The practical issues would be mainly unashamedly matters of self- interest, particularly very rich people seeking very big tax cuts etc; and McCain seems to have had little truck with these, although the big money for the Republican election campaign following the nomination, is now being lined up. His previous failure to acquire the Republican nomination for 2000, when he was defeated for the candidacy by George W Bush, could also be expressed as being defeated by the big money interests who during the primaries ensured Bush's success. Bush was indeed their man and in due course they were rewarded with enormous tax cuts.
But if McCain is the candidate where else have they got to go?
McCain the man
For long, McCain was described as a maverick politician and the record bears that out. Although a lifelong Republican, he has managed to avoid the uglier aspects of that party on some issues, which undoubtedly has been a powerful part of his attraction to political independents. He is perhaps described as a maverick because he does not readily fit the self-seeking profile of many congressional Republicans. He seems not to be overly concerned with personal enrichment, nor are the lobbies who reach him, the more infamous corporate villains of whom the public are well aware.
Another reason for the maverick epithet, is that the record shows he has approached some important issues in a bi-partisan mode (earning him bitter enemies in his own party). Further, there is every indication that he is less the party politician, and more of a believer in the modalities of the Congress. Not necessarily as an end in itself, but as a means of providing an effective and reputable leg in the three-legged constitutional government of executive, legislature and the courts. In other words, government of the people for the people by 'the people' - as distinct from lobbies, media tycoons and their satraps; Most obviously in the Bush period is 'Big Money' of whom a reasonable case can be made that in recent years, they have shifted the balance of lobbying power in their
Moderate Republican, Maverick - he is also accurately described as a 'Real American Hero' when such are rather thin on the ground, but his extensive combat service as a naval aviator and seriously bad experiences in wartime, certainly qualifies him. In Vietnam he was shot down and had a very rough time as an injured
PoW. Notwithstanding his injuries- he was expected to die - he suffered the full 'robust', 'enhanced' interrogations experience (as Bush and his draft-dodging desk warriors like to put it, talking of al Qaeda suspects), being released five and a half years later. It is certain that he is himself a strong character and has been close to death on several occasions surviving three aircraft crashes, not including being shot-down in Hanoi, and although injured, an amazing escape from a shipborne 'friendly fire' disaster, including napalm and high explosives on the aircraft carrier USS
Forrestal, which took the lives of 132 of his shipmates and injured 62 others. His long captivity, often involving illness, injury, torture and brutal treatment generally, meant that he was never far from death's door
The causes for which he has laboured include those associated with Vietnam veterans, including MIA's (missing in action), and POW's. These were carried on in many instances in a bi-partisan mode with Senator Kerry, another Vietnam veteran and the Democratic candidate in the 2004 presidential election.
During the 1999 campaign against Bush for the Republican nomination, he too like Kerry in 2004, was 'Swift-Boated' via a series of smears, un-attributable, but widely circulated and assumed to be by the Bushies since Karl Rove was a master of the dirty game. They included such pernicious allegations as his wife being a drug addict, that his adopted Bangladeshi (thus brown-skinned) daughter, was the result of an illicit extra-marital liaison, that he himself was a "Manchurian candidate," ie brainwashed into treachery whilst a prisoner in Vietnam - collectively demonstrating how dirty the political game can get in American elections - indeed the depths to which the Republican attack-dog destruction machine, can reach.
In reality McCain has been associated with bi-partisan issues like seeking to end big money controlling political decisions, in which of course he was directly at odds with the Bush regime. We do not know his proposed domestic program - that is for US citizens to evaluate, but here seek to establish where he stands on the international issues affecting the world and some of the nations on which we habitually report, on this newnations web site.
Of Money and Defence
The matter of the 'military industrial complex' is hard to read exactly, at this distance. But McCain is very much about a strong America. Whether he has the vision of an Eisenhower about tax dollars being engorged by the ever-avaricious armaments industries, remains to be seen. But we need have no doubt that he would put military-preparedness high amongst his priorities and would ensure the financial means to maintain the US's giant lead in defence over any conceivable combination of all other nations.
No US leader is likely to forget or be allowed to forget, that the triumph of the conclusion of the cold war was that the USA outspent all possible opponents and was ready to raise the stakes yet again, when the leadership of the USSR finally understood that it could not go there. Earlier in the century when Japan
pre-emptively attacked the US at Pearl Harbour, the more far-sighted amongst those few Japanese leaders who knew the realities of North America, gambled on a series of knock-out blows achieving a quick peace, realising that the disastrous end otherwise, was implicit in the beginning. Hitler's apparently almost unthinking reflex action in then declaring war on the USA in support of his Japanese allies, spelled the inevitable doom of his ambitions, even had he been able to withstand the Soviet counter-attacks. Whatever the innate warlike capacity of any state: wealth /fighting spirit/ aggression/ bravery/ military skills/ resourcefulness/ technical capacity; the fundamental point is that the nation with the greatest resources will probably win, given that their governors can safeguard and then marshal those resources, as US governments surrounded by oceans, have always been able to do.
If winning was so neat as to be just about destroying the enemy, then the US could have 'won' in Vietnam, simply by creating a radio-active desert out of SE Asia with nuclear weapons, except that this might have brought down nuclear retaliation, creating the desert on a global scale. In terms of the ending of the cold war, it was enough that the US could raise the odds to the point where the USSR could no longer stay in the game. That has created an American peace, which no president of any party is likely ever to allow to be seriously challenged.
With his Vietnam experience, McCain certainly will not be prepared to 'lose' in Iraq, however he now views the decision to invade in the first place. True he supported the invasion, but so did the vast majority of US lawmakers and the whole of the US media, as well as Americans generally, but this in the wake of 9/11 was on the understanding that the available 'intelligence' said that Saddam held
WMD's, and was in league with Osama bin Laden. Without the neo-con barrage of advisors, and the internal White House 'coup' of the vice-president on all matters Iraqi, it is at least arguable that a McCain presidency of that time would not have launched an invasion. War was always to be an early option to the draft-dodgers in the White House. But to a career fighting-man like McCain, who knows better than most the real horrors and hideous human costs of war, it is far more probable that the invasion would not have happened, unless and until all other possibilities had been exhausted, manifestly not the case in the US's dealings with Iraq.
With this continuing conflict, famously as repeated by his 'leftist' detractors, he has appeared to have supported the administration right up until and beyond the 'Surge' and has been opposed to quitting - indeed he is on record as saying that the US 'could stay 100 years'. But that has been equated as remaining as now, in army strength where nothing changes, which US manpower resources could not sustain. All in, or all out, is not the option. His position should, in the common sense we would attribute to him, be equated with those strategic military 'hubs' such as the long established regional bases in South Korea; Germany, Okinawa/ Japan where substantial US forces, 25-50,000 strong, have been present for more than sixty years.
In other words the US military being now established in bases amongst the oil-exporting nations of the middle-east, it is unlikely that any new administration would now simply pull out completely. So his declaration about a US presence looks inevitable for the forseeable future. There will be much hot air, mostly from commentators rather than presidential candidates, about whether the present strength of 130,000 troops should be halved, quartered or whatever. The specific reasons for their still being there don't conveniently disappear, because on one day in January 2009, the administrations in Washington DC change over. It would be a very safe bet, even without the Iran problem or whoever wins the presidency, that a military presence will remain, capable of rapid reinforcement exactly as in the other long established world-strategic regional bases, mentioned here.
Unlike George.W.Bush who seldom visited any front line, as distinct from in-country rear echelons, McCain with a military reputation of leading from the front, would more likely go and look for himself and perhaps personally confront recalcitrant Iraqi and other leaders.
It is proclaimed by his political contemporaries that he is a straight-shooter, a man who says what he thinks. He has every cause to look at the demise of world communism with personal satisfaction since in his military career as a naval aviator, he fought against its local manifestation in Vietnam,
It is also certain that he will recognise that today's RUSSIA still is an authoritarian system, distinguishable from the USSR not just by the fact that now it is merely huge, whereas the USSR covered about a third of the world's surface, but also that the absurdities of communist economics and the dictatorship of 'the party' have gone. But the mastery of the Kremlin remains absolute and for the foreseeable future, concentrated in the hands of Vladimir Putin and his immediate circle.
That being said, RUSSIA is primarily a disappointment to the west who hoped for better things for their citizens, since it was Russians that probably suffered the most during the seventy-three year 'long night' of communism. It now seems no better after sixteen post-communist years, even a little worse in human rights terms, than perhaps half of the nations of the world. It has shown small interest in western concepts of democracy or justice, partly it must be said, because the US exemplar itself departed from the norms of democracy, in numerous ways during the presidency of
George.W.Bush, which Putin's spokesmen have had much sport pointing out, in vigorously responding to criticism.
It is probable that McCain would conclude that RUSSIA does not represent a military threat, whilst always ensuring that the USA can maintain its enormous technological and material lead. Post-communist RUSSIA has discovered something better. That it has massive quantities of oil and gas, the energy that the world needs and will pay handsomely for, as far as can be seen into the future. What possible benefit could there be for RUSSIA in another cold / hot war?
It is unlikely that McCain would seek confrontation with Moscow, nor yet allow Moscow to bait the US. One has to hope that a quality observed in McCain, that of 'respect,' (as distinct from the embarrassingly patronising attitude of George W Bush, of
Putin, "I looked into his eyes - and saw something of his soul,") would extend into the world of prickly international positioning, and require and deserve equivalent respect. That would do for both parties!
Whatever else, we must hope that if he becomes president, McCain would not indulge in that preachy hectoring, about perceived shortfalls in democracy, that became a mark of
George.W.Bush. The Russians are grown-ups and will move at their own speed on these issues, which stand well behind other national priorities, even if we do not admire them for it.
Whilst China can boast such impressive statistics including its defence array, it remains manifestly far behind the USA in it's military capacity. Just as Russia has no cause to seek to 'defeat' the US and the West - the nuclear stand-off makes that impossible anyway; but leaving aside the conclusive point about ultimate weaponry, what would China stand to gain by going to war with its leading world customer, closely allied to most, if not all of its other big customers? It has achieved a brilliant economic success by pursuing the peaceful policies bequeathed by the enlightened Deng Xiao Ping.
Taiwan is cited as a possible casus belli in circumstances where the island might seek to manifest its independence, but Taiwanese policies are currently moving away from that likelihood. China itself, after sixty-plus years of this irritant, is not about to suddenly mount an invasion, inevitably provoking a US response to bring about all the bad things that would follow. For one reason, it is not at all clear by military criteria that a mainland invasion would succeed. For years after 1949 the tiny armoured islets of Quemoy and Matsu continued to defy the mainland with artillery duels, even though they were only a handful of miles offshore. Taiwan is approached from mainland China through the one hundred mile wide Formosa Strait, a long way away from mainland invasion ports, which leaving aside the presence of a US fleet there, is much further than any successful seaborne invasion against defended positions, in modern times. The Normandy landings come to mind. Further, Taiwan is spectacularly rich and over more than half a century of independence from the mainland, has spent large sums on sophisticated defensive weapons systems, submarines, aircraft and missiles and who knows what else sub-sea anti-invasion equipment.
The geostrategic implications are that if China ever decided to invade, then they could not afford to be seen as having humiliatingly failed. That in turn implies that they would have to mount such a vastly overweight expedition, that the ramifications would cause a regional defensive reaction from other well-armed
neighbours, such as Japan and South Korea, with massive risks to world peace.
It does not seem, whatever the military-industrial lobbyists may tell him, that China represents an actual military threat, so that diplomacy remains the way forward. What a triumph for any president who could 'include China in' to play the full constructive part in world affairs that its economic success indicates is now appropriate.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
This is now a collective for the two giant nations of Russia and China, plus the former soviet satellites that still look to Moscow, and other various nations of greater and lesser significance. Its stated objectives : cooperation against terrorism and drugs smuggling for example, whilst worthy in themselves do not explain why the SCO happened. It was set up as a nascent defensive alliance against the 'in your face' military expansion of the USA after 9/11, with its well publicised intention of building a girdle of military bases around the world, whilst its equally well publicised body of influential neo-con government advisors in Washington, openly advocated taking over various nation states, initially in the middle east, but who knows what thereafter.
It currently is a potential alternative to NATO, which clearly Russia feels to be encircling it. However one analyses NATO, it still is the inheritor of the organisation that successfully stood its ground during the long years of the cold war. It cannot be missed by friend or foe, that it is always under the top command of a US general, appointed by the US Defence Secretary. Thus it would be bound to be perceived in Moscow and Beijing as a limb of the US military. The argument that it is subject to political constraints from its allies, looks a little thin after the UK's devoted political and military support of the Iraq invasion and an alleged 49 strong 'coalition of the willing'.
A McCain presidency with its allies, would be well advised to reconsider the whole matter of whether the policy of growing NATO (for what purpose is unclear) to expand geographically (inevitably that means within the
FSU), is really the smartest way forward. Is this polarisation what the world needs? Inevitably more such expansion would likely prompt an equal and opposite reaction and see the SCO inevitably polarise into the eastern equivalent of NATO - to whose benefit (except the military-industrial interests), it is hard to see?
Afghanistan & Pakistan
With Osama Bin Laden still at large, there is no way that a McCain or any other US president would allow the Taleban to retake power in Kabul. That nightmare of self-appointed religious killers, sustained by seventh century scriptures and arrogating all power, must never be allowed back to occupy any vacuum of legitimate government. The lesson is an obvious one!
By the time of the US November elections, it would be reasonable to assume that the world will know more about the future for Pakistan's new government where elections are taking place this month. All the world now recognises that the US and NATO's main adversaries are inside the vast, wild, lawless mountainous ranges on the ill-defined borderlands of these two countries. Theoretically the region is within Islamabad's
imperium, but is in fact made up of tribesmen who care little about any nation-state or their political boundaries, resent their military - and don't much like non-Moslems. The world also should know that President
Musharraf, the west's ally in these parts, cannot be treated as merely a puppet (the US media often complain that he doesn't do as he is told). Leaving aside dealing with the dodgy party politicians of his nation, he is under continual pressure from a deeply conservative Islamic population with an overlay of fanatical
jihadists, convinced that they should become the Sunni Islamic government of Pakistan, just as their
Shi-ite Iranian neighbour took over that country thirty years before.
There is no obvious political solution for Afghanistan, other than 'more of the same'- constant battling between local tribesmen or their more remote cousins, with western forces now represented there (as were the Russians), as unwanted foreign occupiers, with other NATO Members questioning out loud, what represents victory here? Or when and what is the exit from all this? It is to be hoped that his choice of Secretary of State would be an ingenious and resourceful official, who could plan some acceptable form of closure with hope for the region, from what is looking suspiciously like a dead-end.
The big question is, will the new president pick up on the inflexible positions of his predecessor, or will he take the once-and-for-all opportunity offered by being the new leader of his nation and perhaps of the west - as US presidents before George.W.Bush were often regarded? It would seem right to try a new initiative, taking IRAN at its word as not seeking a military nuclear device, and moving on from there, offering in return for satisfactory safeguards about enriched uranium, US and western co-operation in setting up a civil nuclear power capacity. Since US Intelligence reports that since 2003, there has been no military nuclear
programme, then surely the priority should be to keep it that way and accept that like all signatories of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, Iran is entitled to develop a civil nuclear capacity.
Thirty years ago the mullah - led mob (actually well organised students), invaded and occupied the US Embassy in Tehran. There can be no doubt that prior to this the US had for many years been interfering in Iranian affairs in what objectively at this distance, seem outrageous ways, and the success of the Ayatollahs was a reaction towards the perceived US puppet that was the last Shah. The point now is that this all was decades ago, as was the embarrassing aborted rescue mission which brought about the downfall of President Carter, and the release of the Embassy hostages delayed until the beginning of the first term of President Reagan.
In the early years of the Bush administration, we now know that Tehran offered, via diplomatic back routes, to put everything on the table, to find a continuing peace with the USA. Bush, flushed with his victory over Saddam Hussein's third-world army, and with Iran next in his sights as per the Cheney plan, did not allow any negotiations, clandestine or otherwise, to take place.
That was then, this is now. Since the US intelligence sources say that Iran discontinued its military nuclear program five years ago, the occasion of a new presidency would give a unique opportunity of a new beginning, with the objective of achieving Iran's monitored agreement not to restart that military program. The cold war between Iran and the USA has gone on for too long - and who has benefited?
McCain must be as aware as any, or more so, where the Bushies with their neo-con theories have taken his nation, and how badly a new approach and bold initiatives are needed now.
The Hermit Republic may reliably be expected to 'misbehave' all through the continuing 6PT negotiations and their agreed outcome - that is the only really predictable sequence of events that can safely be ventured at this stage. By the end of 2008 and this Bush presidency, it will be more clear (even that must be said advisedly), as to how the deal is standing up. It did appear that both sides, North Korea itself and its five interlocutors - China, the USA, Japan, Russia and South Korea had got an outline deal where Pyongyang received a lot, in terms of benefits, in return for which it would
de-nuclearise itself in agreed stages.
But Japan is not content. It still needs satisfactory closure on the kidnapped Japanese citizens stolen and spirited away to North Korea, half a life-time ago. South Korea is probably the key player, because the sub-text here is about reunification of the two Koreas. Seoul has a new government with a new prime minister, who is pro the talks, but wants more reciprocation (as do they all), from Pyongyang.
A new US presidency would aim to complete the de-nuclearisation - nothing is more important than that, but on the matter of reunification, there is a kind of headlong assumption of a progressive series of events, resulting in one Korea. Obviously the first hurdle is the Dear Leader himself and on what terms, if any, he and his inner circle would accept this. They witnessed what happened to the former leaders of East Germany when it was re-united with the west. They do not intend to go to jail, and they do intend to continue to be rich, privileged, and protected.
The bigger question is in whose interest it is that reunification should take place? First, one's answer would be a united Korea itself. South Korea is truly successful with an economy massively larger than the North. This would create a nation of about 75 millions - a powerful economy with great room for growth, but there is a downside. The military conjunction of the two Koreas would in present terms, mean nearly 1.75 millions under arms, who due to the long confrontation, are battle-ready in a way that their neighbours are not. That would certainly be a major impediment to largely demilitarised Japan - for historical reasons traditionally unloved on the peninsula. Beijing too, might well suspect a greatly enlarged South Korea, a client of the USA with a big regional US military base there, as being a dagger pointing, in adverse circumstances, at the heart of China.
Russia's Far East is thinly peopled. For centuries they have feared over-populated China's expansion into under-populated Siberia and Pacific Russia - a main reason Moscow will never give up their nuclear weapons. Should they fear a newly resurgent and prosperous Korea, no longer two minor states, becoming a full-sized player on their eastern frontiers?
Where should America stand on all of this? It was enough until now to concentrate on removing the North Korean proliferation threat, but by the time of the new presidency in Washington, these other issues may be high on the agenda. A coherent foreign policy will need to be in place, sooner rather than later, on such an important issue.
Israel & Palestine
A reflection of the joke that "Israel is the 51st State of America", lies in the fact that Israel probably has more lobbying power than any single state of the union. Whatever else, no president who seeks a second term, will allow themselves or their actions to be represented as hostile to Israelís interests. There is no reason to suppose that McCain would be any different. Quite apart from the US-Israel lobby, which is a truly impressive operation, Israel is the one stable element in the whole middle-east and is also a (sort of covert) nuclear power. Having said this, the message seems to have finally got through in WDC that peace in the middle-east will only happen if there is an acceptable settlement of the Arab-Israeli Palestine agenda. The Saudis have already offered the outline on behalf of the Arab League.
The Bushies came late to this particular party. There was no Israel policy for the early years of the Bush / Cheney
adminstration. The close relationship between Likud and the Bush Republicans manifested itself in a daily phone call between the offices of Cheney and Sharon, when in his active time. The deal appeared to be that Sharon could make the decisions, so long as he ran them past Cheney, and so it transpired, until eventually the fickle finger of fate caught up with Sharon. By now Condi was Secretary Of State and unlike Powell she seemed, following diplomatic success in getting North Korea around a table and more, to have been allowed to initiate a new Palestine policy. GWB anxious for some kind of plus in his historical record, belatedly got in on the game; did his minimalist diplomatic bit, and hoped publicly for results before his term expired.
The one dreary thing that shoves its way up into any understanding of the past forty years or so, of talks about talks and the like, is that inaction, 'masterly' or otherwise, has been the leading attribute of the Israeli approach. Given that they have kept hold of most of the cards during that long time, it indicates that they are unlikely to change any time soon.
It has served them well over the decades. They have continued to build new fortified settlements - very many thousands of new houses on occupied Palestinian territory, blithely contravening agreed treaty terms etc. There are some Israeli leaders who would make a lasting peace, even an equitable peace, but there are more who will not. Israeli politics is fragmented, with no party able to hold power alone, but only in coalition with what are usually small religious parties, without whom they are sunk. Each of these has their own agenda, which often has a religious and territorial aspect.
Of course the disarray in Israeli government terms is as nothing compared with the Palestinians, whose present elected government, the religious party
Hamas, is shut up in 'Hamastan' - a blockaded Gaza, and excluded from negotiations. These are 'entrusted' to
Fatah, the losing party in the election, who themselves are a shifting 'movement,' the amalgam of a series of alliances: political, family, clan, territorial, etc.
It would not be unduly pessimistic to guess that by the time of the next presidency, be it McCain or another, this problem will not have been resolved. So it remains to be seen if a new president can hit the ground running, and whether his policies will have the legs to take matters forward. It would be reasonable to assume that if the intellectually dense Bush administration has, six to seven years in, finally come to the realisation that middle-east peace cannot be achieved without a fair Palestine settlement, that the incoming administration, presumably unburdened by pro-Israeli neo-cons, will arrive swiftly at that same conclusion.
A McCain presidency, with history to play for (he will be seventy two if he takes office), may be quickly capable of giant strides. Israel may not get what it would like ie the Jerusalem-as-capital problem, the fortified settlements problem, the returnees problem, all to go away. Nevertheless, Israel is unlikely to be able to claim 'unfairness' based on the UN agreements that set up the state of Israel, with an American moderator overseeing the whole operation.
Now conveniently almost entirely grouped as the EU, with a few problematic exceptions: the spiky Serbia - last remnant of the unravelled
'Serboslavia;' Turkey - is it 'European' - will it be allowed to join the
EU? Ukraine: can it aspire to EU membership? But these are primarily the problems of Europe, even if the US would like them to go a certain way.
US relations with the EU remain steady and if the new US president can show that they are 'the right stuff' as McCain almost certainly could, then the US can expect to resume the tacit leadership of the western world. Always providing that he eschews the unilateralism of his predecessor, and understands the dire consequences of pursuing off-the-wall geopolitical theories, like those of the neo-cons.
The War on Terror
In a sense, the world is waiting for the next outrage, within the US or Europe. It is entirely unsatisfactory that the west is on the back foot - on the defensive.
Probing the intentions of tiny suspected cells of jihadists is vital, but rather then taking the fight to the 'movement' of Jihad , it is also an inadequate policy in the sense that it will prevent some - but not all outrages. How to hit back at the perpetrators, without losing the moral battle by destroying non-combatants, is yet to be established. Iraq is hardly a model, because the initial reaction and some part of what continues, is the way that occupied nations can be expected to react to a foreign military invasion. Further complications arise from the massive religious-civil war the invasion has unleashed and only a part can be attributed to jihadists - the real abiding enemies of the rest of the world.
Iraq is however the lesson which points the way forward. To the need to equitably resolve the Palestine question; add: - to never again unilaterally invade another nation without UN sanction; to seek to defuse the antagonisms between Shia and Sunni - in itself a good reason to restore normal relations with Iran. Then the nihilistic poisoning of youthful minds with hateful and destructive religious doctrines, can become the unambiguous objective of world reaction to the
jihadis, working as this eventually must, through the religions themselves. Any US president after 9/11 has an unchallenged leadership role in the war on terrorism. Perhaps it will take a new president to create the sustained conditions in which this 21st century evil can be successfully combated and overcome.
The Place of Principle
McCain's personal history seems to indicate a man of high principle. It is a strange and welcome event for a watching world that has grown older and wearier observing dominant American political personnel with names like Cheney, Libby,
Rumsfeld, Rove, Wolfowitz, Perle, Hadley and others, generally regarded now as from some Realm of Darkness, that at last, honourable men or women, might be on the threshold of power.
This senator has a distinct aura of our Roman forbears in that he spent long years in the military service of his country, acquitted himself with distinction, never more so than as a captive subjected to torture, but declining an early release offered to him for propaganda purposes when his captors discovered that his father was the admiral in command of the whole Pacific theatre. He declined freedom unless all those imprisoned before him were released first - and as a result spent another five years suffering abuse in close captivity. Like a Roman leader who has served his nation long and well, he gravitated to national politics and soon became a Senator for Arizona after a period in the House.
He may never make it to the White House. That the US electors will decide in November. But by merely becoming a candidate up against one of the two wholesome contenders of the Democrats, there is already a mood about that perhaps the long night is over, in the degradation of US politics. The point is that for non-Americans, up until the presidency of George W Bush, we were many of us comfortable with the idea that the US president was also 'our president,' the leader of the free world as ever was, since the time of the Cold War.
George.W. Bush has forfeited that accolade. The incoming president can restore that world leadership because if they cannot, then they are not the right leader for the US either.
Readers who might
wish to comment or debate these issues, are
invited take part in our Geopolemics blog see the
McCain Presidency next? on the Topics
Publisher - Clive Lindley