CHICAGO (JTA) – Both Democratic front-runners have criticized the Bush administration’s foreign policy and tried to link it to U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in an effort to soften up the presumptive GOP nominee for the general election in November.
However, there are reasons to worry about U.S. Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) when it comes to international affairs and the related issue of national security.
This is particularly true when one focuses on the most volatile and dangerous parts of the world: the Middle East. It is a region where one of our strongest allies and the only democracy in the region, Israel, is surrounded by enemies that repeatedly have attacked the state. Another nation, Iran, openly works to have the means to fulfill a pledge its leadership has made many times: to destroy the Jewish state.
Both Obama and Clinton have hewed to the Democratic Party’s reliance on international institutions to solve the world’s problems. These institutions do work, but in very limited circumstances, such as in the case of natural disasters. Their record is woeful when dealing with Israel-related issues, including the feckless performance of the International Atomic Energy Agency in attempting to prevent nuclear proliferation.
International bodies, symbolized by the United Nations, have been biased against Israel for years.
John McCain, in contrast, has called for a new approach to improving the utility of international institutions and also has called for the forming of a new international grouping – a body comprised of democracies instead of the one run by dictatorships and autocracies – that will serve as a counterweight to the United Nations. First he looks to empowering our allies rather than rewarding our enemies.
Obama repeatedly has highlighted his willingness to meet with the leaders of Iran and Syria – two nations who are responsible for the strength of Hezbollah and Hamas. This will serve to embolden the stature and power of those regimes.
Clinton says she would insist that certain preconditions be fulfilled before extending the prestige of a meeting with the U.S. president. Like Obama, Hillary seems to be reaching for an accommodation with Iran rather than seeking to halt the spread of Iranian-sponored terrorism afflicting the Middle East. She, like Obama, seems to place a great deal of faith in the goodwill of the mullahs.
Such naivete can have tragic results. We are not dealing with a weakened Russia, where detente was possible, but an empowered and radical Shitte Islamic regime bent on regional hegemony. Reaching out to the regime would demoralize reformers and the youth of Iran – a bulging population that admires America and may be the engine of regime change in the future.
John McCain is more wary of Middle Eastern regimes. He recognizes that Iran has been attacking Americans for years – and not just in Iraq. Their support for Hezbollah led to the deaths of hundreds of Marines in Lebanon and the murder of Americans in Saudi Arabia. As a former prisoner of war, McCain has had great empathy for the Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah and Hamas – both backed by the Iranians.
Indeed, one wonders how seriously either Democratic candidate considers the terror threat facing Israel and America. Both support measures that would make it more arduous for proceedings to be brought against terror suspects, and Obama suggests that terrorism is just one of many problems along with climate change and poverty.
How heartily will he support Israeli efforts to defend itself against terror? He refused to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terror group and criticized the senators who did. This will make it more difficult for the world to enact measures against that group – members of which have been training and arming Hezbollah and Hamas.
McCain has declared that Islamic terrorism is one of the transcendent problems of our age. This threat would be heightened manifold should Iran build a nuclear arsenal.
Finally, on the contentious issue of Iraq, McCain offers the superior approach. However one may feel about the wisdom of toppling Saddam Hussein and how well the war has been waged – and there are legitimate reasons to be critical – a commander-in-chief must be willing to play the hand he’s been dealt. Both Clinton and Obama would fold, pack up the bags and head out.
Judging from the words of al-Qaida, this would encourage even more terrorism – especially terrorism directed against Israel. Iran would be further empowered without U.S. forces in the region to help contain the Islamic Republic.
In the weeks to come, as the candidates further outline their agendas, it is important to remember that we live in a perilous age and presidents have paramount powers in the exercise of foreign affairs.
The two Democratic senators have never served in the military and boast very limited foreign policy experience. By contrast, McCain has served in the Congress since 1982. He has been tempered by war and educated by decades of experience as a leader in the Senate. He is a leader who has shown a willingness to stand up for his beliefs – against his own party at times – and for America and its allies.
He will do so as our next president.
(Ed Lasky is a contributor to the American Thinker.)