Look Out, World
Why Vote? Reason 177 You should vote because John McCain and Barack Obama have very different takes on the...
Why Vote? Reason 177 You should vote because John McCain and Barack Obama have very different takes on the global mess they'll be inheriting-and what they'd like to do with it. Despite all the talk about our troubled economy, this year's presidential race will still come down to competing visions of the post-9/11 world, and what America needs to do about it. George W. Bush leaves office stunningly unpopular, due overwhelmingly to his schizophrenic foreign policy (six years Hyde, two Jekyll). Given the strong political impetus for change, this election has always been the Democrats' to lose.True to form, the Dems have done their best to make it a close vote by nominating an African-American senator with limited national security credentials. But Barack Obama gave them no choice. By redefining the way campaigns are mounted in this networked age, his candidacy has produced the sort of worldwide electricity that most certainly will get him selected as Time 's "person of the year"-if he wins.In contrast, John McCain's candidacy has the consistency of comfort food, the underlying personal message seemingly, "I've waited long enough." He is the default candidate-as in, "If you aren't willing to risk it all on Obama, think about me." Unlike Obama or Hillary Clinton, voting for McCain as president offers no history-making opportunity, which makes the choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate all the more politically clever. But even with that move-bold or desperate or both-McCain remains an essentially back-to-the-future choice: a pre-boomer for a public fed up with that generation's do-nothing politics.Both nominees offer a strongly "realist" perspective on international affairs, with the differences stemming primarily from their generational backgrounds. McCain's stark realism stems from the Cold War. Ronald Reagan's personal mystique was largely a fiction of our imagination, but McCain's legend-the good and the bad-is based on true stories of personal heroism. He lived them all. If you want someone who can recognize human evil and fight it tooth and nail, McCain's your man.Obama's subtle realism emerged from a far different time: the truly tumultuous 1970s, where we first locate much of today's globalization-energy and food shocks, Middle East conflicts, environmental awareness, global market swings, and transnational terrorism. Befitting those fractured times, Obama's journey plays out like an ABC "Movie of the Week": the biracial child who willed himself from a Jakarta grade school to the pinnacle of Harvard Law, landing next on the South Side of Chicago as a community activist who instinctively countered the prevailing counterculture. If you want someone who can recognize global complexity and manage it with confidence and care, Obama's your man.Both McCain and Obama represent quintessentially American stories, with their amazing personal trajectories obscuring the underlying political philosophies each brings to a possible administration. Pundits (and Karl Rove) would have you believe that fear alone will settle this election. But the question every voter must answer is not, "Do you fear?" but rather, "What do you fear more?"Barack Obama will make America smarter about the outside world, and John McCain will make the world smarter about America. And on that score, there are plenty of ways to divvy up the global landscape. Here are ten criteria you can use to compare the candidates and help you break down the basic choices. Priorities: Where's the focus? Early last summer, Fortune asked the candidates to lay out the "gravest long-term threat to the U.S. economy." According to the article, Obama didn't blink: Our energy policy. McCain paused for several long seconds before answering, "Well, I would think that the absolute gravest threat is the struggle that we're in against Islamic extremism, which can affect, if they prevail, our very existence."Those answers speak volumes about how each senator approaches international affairs. Obama focuses on upstream, big-picture causality (e.g. fix energy and improve everything that follows from it), while McCain gravitates toward more downstream, immediate tangibles (stop the bad guys from doing bad things). So if you want a terrorism-centric foreign policy, McCain is your guy. If you want something broader, Obama makes more sense. With McCain, you're less likely to experience a security breakdown, but more likely to see a wider array of ongoing problems exacerbated. With Obama, you're more likely to see more general improvement on a host of issues, but you stand a greater chance of waking up one morning to some nasty surprise. The basic question is, which spooks you more concerning America's resilience? The perceived steady decline, or the occasional external shock? ADVANTAGE: The American voter, because there's a distinct choice.
|Who should America seek out as strategic allies? If you think it's the French and the Germans, you need to update your global database.|
|Letting McCain be McCain will be a bumpy ride for all involved: the rest of the U.S. government, the American people, our allies, and-most importantly-our enemies.|
|Obama will seek to carefully unwind America's tie-down in Iraq and Afghanistan so as to expand his administration's freedom of action elsewhere, but this will take a long time.|