The first debate between Senators John McCain and Barak Obama ended pretty much a draw. There were no knockout punches by either candidate. What probably came out of the debate was their differing positions on US foreign policy.
However, one of the matters that shun through McCain is that he aims to conduct foreign policy basically in the same style as George W. Bush, or worse, with the help of nationalism that feeds itself with simplistic perceptions of the world such as evil and good.
While he spoke out against Guantanamo and torturing detainees, McCain played more on conservative Republicans and was not that appealing to independent, undecided and swing voters. Even though Bush should understand by now that his foreign policy has been ineffective, costly and ruinous, McCain still believes that the US can go around being the world policeman.This may, however, be difficult for the next administration considering how much credibility and economic might the US has squandered under Bush.
One of the big differences between the presidential hopefuls was on the Iraq War. McCain does not seem to understand that it is that war in Iraq that has not only brought world shame to the US, but undermined it by becoming heavily indebted to country’s such as China. About $10 billion is spent every month by the US in Iraq. McCain still believes that the US can win the war, while Obama sees the main focus against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
If there is a criticism to Obama, that would be that he sounded hawkish on issues such as Afghanistan and bombing Taliban bases in Pakistan. True, that Central Asian country may have a growing insurgency, but history has shown that Afghanistan cannot be won militarily. Ask the Russians if you disagree.
In sum, apart from the financial turmoil that either candidate will have to deal with from January, the other huge disaster they will have to grapple with is the US’ standing in the world.
Who has a better chance of addressing such a foreign policy challenge? Obama, in my opinion, is that person. He offers a new hope whereas McCain still believes in the old approach of military might and the convoluted world of Reagan geopolitics, which will only lead us to a new world war.