Monday, September 1, 2008

McCain/Palin Prospects for Peace...a report from the frontlines of the RNC

Today, this practical peacenik joined the protesting peaceniks (some also practical, but many also somewhat crazy) at the RNC in St. Paul. I felt it was my duty as the Minnesota-based peacenik to report from the scene. And, let’s be honest, while we’re trying to open the discussion about prospects for peace under an Obama/Biden vs. McCain/Palin administration, I’m not pretending to be fair and balanced. I’m a homegrown, Wellstone democrat. I was raised to support progressive politics and I’m proud to say that my Dad accompanied me to the protest (his last protest was sometime around ’72). So you can probably guess which side I am supporting. Still, I have been doing some research about McCain’s foreign policy and I think I can also offer some concrete points for discussion about the prospects for peace under his administration.

There is no question that McCain is a hawk. But when I started writing this entry, I was not convinced that if McCain had won the 2000 election instead of Bush that we would be at war in Iraq. I thought that his experience in war would make him more cautious with the use of force than Bush. I also thought that his experience as a prisoner of war might make him more respectful of human rights and international law. But after doing some more research, I think I was wrong. McCain has been a strong proponent of the war in Iraq even before it began . He has also surrounded himself with neconservatives who lobbied hard for the war as his closest foreign policy advisors. With these advisors at his side, we are unlikely to see anything but continued disregard for international law, declining human security, and more warmongering.

McCain’s senior foreign policy and national security advisor, Randy Scheunemann was head of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI), a post-9/11 advocacy outfit that pushed for war in Iraq. McCain also served on the committee. On national security issues, McCain also receives advice from realists like, Henry Kissinger and Richard Armitage; however, according to a recent article in Newsweek, leading neoconservatives like Scheunemann, William Kristol and Robert Kagan are gaining increasing influence in the campaign. This is a frightening trend. Apparently, McCain supports the argument in Kagan’s recent book that a “fundamental global divide is emerging between liberal democracies and autocratic governments—namely Russia and China.” Coming at foreign policy with this type of absolutist, good vs. evil view of the world makes the promotion of peace in the sense of human security and cooperation impossible.

Still, McCain believes he is working towards “an enduring peace built on freedom.” As far as I can tell, what this means is that we will have peace on our terms because America is the greatest country in the world and if anyone has a problem with that, we will bomb them into submission. Ok, that may not be entirely fair. In fact, his statements on foreign policy, while hawkish, do demonstrate an understanding of international affairs that far outweighs that of his predecessor. However they also demonstrate his continued cold-war mentality. In a recent article on the Huffington Post, Phil Trounstine compares McCain’s unwillingness to “surrender” in Iraq to Nixon’s “Peace with Honor” in Vietnam. Meaning no peace without honor. And no honor without victory. As a former soldier and POW, he does not believe in abandoning a war effort once it has begun. There is no question in his mind that we must win at any cost – even if thousands more US troops and innocent Iraqis die in the process. He has even blamed the anti-war movement for weakening the war effort and endangering our soldiers. There are a lot of things that are dangerous about McCain’s obsession with winning in Iraq. Apart from the obvious humanitarian concerns, I fear he and the other supporters of this war do not understand that defeating terrorism and winning in Iraq are two very different things. Where does it end?

Lining our protest line of over 10,000 people today were a handful of pro-war republicans with signs that said “Victory over terrorism, Let our soldiers win.” What these people do not understand is that winning in Iraq may be important for our American pride, but it is not going to defeat “terrorism.” Instead, continuing the war is actually fueling the Islamic extremists and creating more terrorists. This effort cannot be confined to the borders of one country.

So what are prospects for policies that will promote peace under McCain? (I should note, I haven't mentioned Palin because as far as I can tell, her only foreign policy credentials are that Alaska is close to Russia You've got to be F-ing kidding me). If you listen to the anti-war protesters, they’re pretty certain that McCain won’t be any better than Bush on foreign policy. Pre-emptive wars, unilateral strikes and a complete disregard for human rights and international law are not on my list of ways to promote peace. What are your thoughts?


jterry said...

In all fairness to Governor Palin, Alaska also borders Canada.

Atrobilius said...

I would observe that there have always been two legitimate schools of peacemakers: peace with justice types and peace with freedom types. The two used to be able to find some middle ground. Peace for Communists meant liberation of nations and peoples to become, well, Communists. Peace for anti-Communists meant liberation of nations and peoples in favor of freedom, democracy, and the free market. I mention all this because it seems to me that it is a mistake to suppose that everyone who says he's for peace with freedom is an imperialist or favors force over persuasion.