Focus: The Presidential Debates and U.S. Foreign Policy

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CIAO Focus, October 2008:
The Presidential Debates and U.S. Foreign Policy

The first two presidential debates revealed—in theory at least—differences as well as similarities in the foreign policy visions of Barack Obama and John McCain. Both candidates would take a more multilateral approach to engaging in world affairs, and both would attempt to repair American's damaged image abroad, deal with the global warming crisis and outlaw the use of torture.

Neither candidate would allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, but Obama expressed willingness to negotiate with Ahmadinejad while McCain said he would not talk to American's enemies, including Iran, without clearly defined preconditions.

On Pakistan, Obama criticized the Bush administration's policy of "coddling a dictator," Pervez Musharraf, and said he would not hesitate to invade that country if "we had Osama bin Laden in our sights" and Pakistan was unwilling or unable to act. In contrast, McCain supported Bush's conciliatory stance towards Musharraf, and promised a more cautious approach to Pakistan invoking Teddy Roosevelt's adage to talk softly and carry a big stick.

There were considerable differences on how to handle the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama supports a phased withdrawal from Iraq and would divert troops to Afghanistan, which he feels is, and has always been, the central battleground in the War on Terror. McCain, on the other hand, cautioned that pulling out of Iraq prematurely would result in defeat, and while he too would deploy more troops to Afghanistan, he believes that Iraq remains the locus of the War on Terror.

This month CIAO examines the presidential debates and U.S. foreign policy.


From the CIAO Database:

Presidential Debates: Forty Years of High-Risk TV

Joe Biden: A Realist Cold War Liberal

U.S.-Latin America Relations: A New Direction for a New Reality

Sovereign Wealth and Sovereign Power: The Strategic Consequences of American Indebtedness

Deterring State Sponsorship of Nuclear Terrorism

An Enduring Peace Built on Freedom: Securing America's Future

Two degrees, one chance: The urgent need to curb global warming

Obama Turns FDR Upside Down

Presidential Politics: Republican and Democratic Views on Middle East Policy

Outside Sources: *

2008 Electoral Map


Obama / McCain Presidential Debate 2008 (video)

Vote 2008 (PBS)

2008 Presidential Candidates


* Outside links are not maintained. For broken outside links, CIAO recommends the Way Back Machine.