Challenging foreign policy assumptions

CHALLENGING FOREIGN POLICY ASSUMPTIONS…. The New York Times’ David Sanger had a good item today about the foreign policy worldviews of the two major-party presidential candidates, and how Barack Obama and John McCain perceive America’s role in the world.

It reminded of a point Wesley Clark emphasized in the new issue of the Washington Monthly, on the post-Bush foreign policy stakes and the need to challenge the assumptions pushed over the last eight years.

Regardless of who takes office in January, American foreign policy will continue to seek a higher, more legitimate purpose than the simple protection of American interests. But a McCain presidency is likely to have a sharper edge in this than an Obama administration. Candidates who speak of strengthening a society of democracies to sidestep the United Nations and expelling Russia from the G8 sound naive and exclusionary. I would hope that an Obama administration would show more tolerance and patience while we built the institutional framework at home and beefed-up teams of civilians abroad to augment the nonmilitary aspects of American foreign policy, including preventive diplomacy and support to fledging democracies. But neither candidate is likely to persist in the simplistic illusion that the act of voting will, in itself, prove a silver bullet in defeating terrorism.

So far, in all my travels abroad, I’ve only had one man tell me that America must do to his country what we did to Iraq. He was a Syrian diplomat-politician in exile. I told him to forget it. We have learned that painful lesson — or at least, I hope we have.

As a reminder, Clark’s piece is in the new issue, which we’d like to send you a free copy of. It’s easy to get this free, no-obligation issue in your hands. Just follow the link. If you want to subscribe after receiving it, you may do so for the very special rate of only $19.95 for one year. If not, the issue is still yours.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.