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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Foreign policy: can experience temper belligerence?

Times columnists Nicholas Kristof frequently writes on international issues and rarely on politics, but he breaks from that tradition to warn how Sen. McCain may be a return to the foreign policy of the first Bush term.
Although he is frantically trying to distance himself from President Bush, Mr. McCain, by his own accounting, would be more Bushian in foreign policy than even Mr. Bush is now.
Let's start with Iran, with its theocratic regime, hatred of Israel, and interest in nuclear armaments. 
Iran seems determined to continue its uranium enrichment and will be vexing for any president. But Mr. Bush, under the influence of Bob Gates and Condoleezza Rice, has realized that the best hope is diplomacy and negotiation. In contrast, Mr. McCain denounces Barack Obama’s call for direct talks with Iranian leaders and speaks openly about the possibility of bombing Iranian nuclear sites. 

“There’s only one thing worse than military action against Iran, and that is a nuclear-armed Iran,” Mr. McCain has told me and others, repeating the line regularly. That’s a nice sound bite, but it suggests that if Iran continues to enrich uranium he would feel obliged to launch airstrikes...

So if Iran continues its policies as most expect, we might well find ourselves under a McCain presidency headed toward our third war with a Muslim country.

And then there's the newly belligerent Russia.
Russia underscores Mr. McCain’s penchant for risk-taking, theatrics and fulmination. Most striking, he wants to kick Russia out of the Group of 8.

Mr. McCain’s lead-with-the-chin approach to Russia reflects the same pugnacity that resulted in obscenity-laced dust-ups with fellow Republican senators, but it’s less endearing when the risk is nuclear war. Do we really want to risk an exchange of nuclear warheads over Abkhazia or South Ossetia? The Spanish prime minister, José Zapatero, told me a few days ago that what he fears most under a McCain administration is a revival of the cold war with Russia.
Anyone recall the ad, Daisy?

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