February 28, 2008
Leave it to John McCain to make Barack Obama appear to have the steady, sane foreign policy. With the Albanians’ declaration of independence in Kosovo, the retirement of Fidel Castro and the recent repudiation of Musharrraf’s PML-Q party in parliamentary elections in Pakistan, there have been a number of occasions in recent days for McCain to demonstrate the experience of his long years in Washington, and without fail he has flunked every test. Declaring that Russian hints of recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia in retaliation for Western recognition of Kosovo were “outrageous,” McCain remains dedicated to a fruitless, ruinous anti-Russian stance that he has maintained since his first presidential run when he was then singing the praises of Shevardnadze. He then denounced Obama for the latter’s suggestion that he would take the opportunity of Castro’s retirement to meet with the former dictator’s brother, showing that his approach towards Cuba policy is no more sensible or wise. Rather than use this historic moment to argue for a change in utterly failed Cuba policy, McCain remains committed to the status quo. On Pakistan, McCain has been and remains reflexively supportive of Musharraf’s regime, endorsing the same tainted embrace of Musharraf that has handicapped our Pakistan policy for at least the last two years.
But then it is hardly encouraging that one of Obama’s foreign policy advisors, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzenzinski, is on the board of The American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus, a group that is hardly subtle in its pro-Chechen and anti-Russian slant. Nor can we be reassured when Obama supports military strikes in Waziristan, even if this is current policy, when such strikes seem detrimental to broader strategic interests in South Asia. One of the few bright spots in Obama’s extremely worrisome foreign policy agenda is his willingness to hold talks with heads of regimes targeted by Washington with sanctions and viewed as hostile powers. In what is arguably the least important of the three regions, Obama seems to have the best policy, while echoing, or not explicitly, rejecting the reckless and provocative positions of the current administration in the other two. The election in November is going to result in one kind of disastrous foreign policy or another. It simply remains to be seen which regions of the world the next administration is going to destabilize.