John McCain's Presidential Agenda

Posted in United States | 03-Apr-08 | Author: Gary H. Rice

Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain (R-AZ) delivers remarks at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland April 2, 2008.


Shortly after the last poll in the United States closes its doors on Tuesday, November 4th the world will know the name of the 44th President Elect and the person destined to receive the keys to Washington’s 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue from President George W. Bush on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009.

Predicting the outcome of any election, and especially the ongoing U.S. Presidential race almost nine months before voting day is at best dodgy. But right now there are only these two possible presidential matchups: McCain v. Clinton, and McCain v. Obama.

No matter who ultimately emerges as the victor probably only a very few would deny that it is in NATO’s interest, especially when its members’ troops will still be carrying on their mission in Afghanistan when the U.S. election results come in, to have some knowledge of the position of the next leader of the free world and commanders-in-chief of the most powerful military machine on earth, on matters that may affect their lives. It is with a view to filling this information gap that Republican Senator John McCain’s intentions on foreign affairs, security and defence policy are highlighted.


To grasp Sen. McCain’s position on foreign security and defence policy issues it is important to first know something about the character and life experiences that helped shape this 71-year old man who would be the next President of The United States. In short, to better understand the direction in which John McCain intends to lead America in 2008, and help evaluate how his policies might impact Canada’s future, one should have some familiarity with the seminal life events that have influenced his thinking and what he has achieved thus far.

Expressed in his own words Sen. McCain avers that he holds "Common sense conservatives beliefs in a short list of self-evident truths: love of country; respect for our (America’s) unique influence on history; a strong defense and strong alliances based on mutual respect and mutual responsibility; steadfast opposition to threats to our America’s) security and values that matches resources to ends wisely; and confident, reliable, consistent leadership to advance human rights, democracy, peace and security."

As the son and grandson of distinguished U.S. Navy admirals, Senator McCain deeply values duty, honour and service of country. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1958, and began a 22-year career as a naval aviator. He continued the McCain tradition of service to country passed down to him from his father and grandfather when he asked to serve in the Vietnam War.

On July 29 1967, McCain narrowly survived the first of many near-death experiences during his lifetime while preparing to take off on a bombing mission over North Vietnam from his ship, the USS Forrestal. A missile accidentally fired from a nearby plane struck the fuel tanks on his plane and created a deadly inferno aboard the ship. He barely escaped the fiery disaster that killed 134 men, injured hundreds more and destroyed 20 planes.

Instead of taking the option to return home after the Forrestal disaster, Senator McCain volunteered for more combat duty - a fateful decision that stopped the clock on his life and separated him from his family, and country, for five and a half years.

During his 23rd bombing mission from his ship, the USS Oriskany, on October 26, 1967, a missile struck McCain's plane and forced him to eject, knocking him unconscious and breaking both his arms and his leg. Captures on landing he was then taken as a prisoner of war into the now infamous "Hanoi Hilton," where he was denied necessary medical treatment and often beaten by the North Vietnamese for not revealing information to his interrogators. Offered early release by his captors, he refused, citing the military policy of releasing prisoners in the order in which they were captured.

John McCain spent much of his time as a prisoner of war in solitary confinement, aided by his Episcopalian faith and the friendships of his fellow POWs. He was finally released from captivity in 1973, and able to return home, continue his service and regain his naval flight status. Graduating from the National War College in 1974 and promoted to Captain in 1979, Senator McCain's last Navy duty assignment was to serve as the naval liaison to the United States Senate. retired from the Navy in 1981. His decorations, honours and awards include the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona in 1982, he led the fight to eliminate wasteful government spending, and strengthen his nation's armed forces. Senator McCain's reform agenda to reduce federal spending and lower taxes helped elevate him to statewide office and after serving two terms in the U.S. House he was elected to the United States Senate in 1986.

In the Senate, McCain is currently Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services and serves on the Readiness, Personnel, and Sea power Subcommittees; Ranking Member and former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and Member and former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

The Senate Committee on Armed Services is composed of 25 Senators. This Committee has jurisdiction for aeronautical and space activities peculiar to or primarily associated with the development of weapons systems or military operations; the common defence; the Department of Defence, the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy, and the Department of the Air Force, generally; maintenance and operation of the Panama Canal, including administration, sanitation, and government of the Canal Zone; military research and development; national security aspects of nuclear energy; naval petroleum reserves, except those in Alaska; pay, promotion, retirement, and other benefits and privileges of members of the Armed Forces, including overseas education of civilian and military dependents; selective service system; and strategic and critical materials necessary for the common defence.


No matter how one may judge the utility or viability of the various items on Senator McCain’s far ranging foreign policy agenda his writings leave no doubt that should he become the next president he intends to personally take the lead in carrying them out. And among his top strategies in the globalized world of the twenty-first century is his determination to use of America's economic power as the centerpiece of its involvement in foreign affairs.

Underpinning Senator McCain’s vision is a belief shared by one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, who envisioned the United States as a global power stabilized by capitalism, and "a people of great destinies. " Like Hamilton, McCain too holds America to be a special nation, the closest thing to the "shining city on a hill" that President Ronald Reagan spoke about in his farewell address. "The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free. I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it and see it still." Reagan said. But Senator McCain is also ever mindful that the time has now come once again for America to restore its mantle as a global leader, reestablish its moral credibility, and rebuild the damaged relationships that once brought so much good to so many places.

In the face of the new dangers and opportunities still to come, McCain as President sees himself as having been given the people’s mandate to build an enduring global peace on the foundations of freedom, security, opportunity, prosperity, and hope. He foresees himself as a president who will revitalize the country's purpose and standing in the world, defeat terrorist adversaries who threaten liberty at home and abroad, and build an enduring peace.

In pursuit of his broad Presidential vision McCain makes it clear that he will strive to rally nations across the world around common causes. With respect to the economy he would continue to promote free trade because. To unite America with friends and allies in a common prosperity, he would aggressively promote global trade liberalization at the World Trade Organization and expand America's free-trade agreements to friendly nations on every continent.

Senator McCain has concluded that defeating radical Islamist extremists is the national security challenge of our time and says he stands ready to lead America and the world to victory - and to seize the opportunities afforded by the unprecedented liberty and prosperity in the world today to build a peace that will last a century.

IRAQ. On Iraq he observes that whether success grows closer or more distant over the coming months, it is clear that it will be a central issue for the next U.S. president. Accordingly, he he support America’s continuing efforts to win in Iraq and oppose any preemptive withdrawal strategy "that has no Plan B for the aftermath of its inevitable failure and the greater problems that would ensue.

AFGHANISTAN. Looking to an American re-commitment to Afghanistan McCain says it must include increasing NATO forces, suspending the debilitating restrictions on when and how those forces can fight, expanding the training and equipping of the Afghan National Army through a long-term partnership with NATO to make it more professional and multiethnic, and deploying significantly more foreign police trainers. It must also address the current political deficiencies in judicial reform, reconstruction, governance, and anti corruption efforts. With regard to Pakistan he says the United States must help resist the forces of extremism by making a long-term commitment to the country.

TERRORISM. Senator McCain’s position on the ongoing threat of global terrorism provides for a counter terrorism effort that is not limited to stateless groups operating in safe havens. As the next president he would confront this threat directly, and his effort would begin with tougher political and economic sanctions. If the United Nations is unwilling to act, he says the United States must lead a group of like-minded countries to impose effective multilateral sanctions, such as restrictions on exports of refined gasoline, outside the UN framework.

ISRAEL. America's long-standing support for Israel would be continued by McCain, including the provision of needed military equipment and technology and ensuring that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge. His position is that the long-elusive quest for peace between Israel and the Palestinians must remain a priority. But the goal must be genuine peace, and so Hamas must be isolated even as the United States intensifies its commitment to finding an enduring settlement.

MUSLIMS. As president, Mr. McCain would employ every economic, diplomatic, political, legal, and ideological tool at his disposal to aid moderate Muslims - women's rights campaigners, labour leaders, lawyers, journalists, teachers, tolerant imams, and many others - who are resisting the well-financed campaign of extremism that is tearing Muslim societies apart. A McCain administration, with its partners, would help friendly Muslim states establish the building blocks of open and tolerant societies. And he would nurture a culture of hope and economic opportunity by establishing a free-trade area from Morocco to Afghanistan, open to all who do not sponsor terrorism.

U.S ARMED FORCES. Addressing the defence of the American homeland, Senator McCain bluntly states that its armed forces are seriously overstretched and under resources. As president, he would increase the size of the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps from the currently planned level of roughly 750,000 troops to 900,000 troops. He would also spend more on national defence, accelerate the transformation of the military, which he believes is still configured to fight enemies that no longer exist.

U.S. ARMY ADVISORY CORPS.If elected President, Senator McCain intends to create an Army Advisory Corps with 20,000 soldiers to partner with militaries abroad, and increase the number of U.S. personnel available to engage in Special Forces operations, civil affairs activities, military policing, and military intelligence. He also sees a need for a nonmilitary deployable police force to train foreign forces and help maintain law and order in places threatened by state collapse.

MILITARY EDUCATION. As president, he would launch a crash program in civilian and military schools to prepare more experts in critical languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, and Pashto. He says students at the service academies should be required to study abroad. He would enlarge the military's Foreign Area Officer program and create a new specialty in strategic interrogation in order to produce more interrogators who can obtain critical knowledge from detainees by using advanced psychological techniques, rather than the kind of abusive tactics properly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.

REVIVAL OF THE OSS (OFFICE OF STRATEGIC SERVICES).Significantly, McCain would set up a new agency patterned after the erstwhile Office of Strategic Services (OSS) that was disbanded by President Truman in September, 1945. He says a modern-day OSS could draw together specialists in unconventional warfare, civil affairs, and psychological warfare; covert-action operators; and experts in anthropology, advertising, and other relevant disciplines from inside and outside government.

Like the original OSS, the successor would be a small, nimble, can-do organization. It would fight terrorist subversion around the world and in cyberspace. It could take risks that America’s bureaucracies today rarely consider taking -such as deploying infiltrating agents without diplomatic cover in terrorist states.

POST CONFLICT RECONSTRUCTION. As president, McCain would energize and expand America’s post conflict reconstruction capabilities so that any military campaign would be complemented by a civilian "surge" that would build the political and economic foundations of peace. To better coordinate America’s disparate military and civilian operations, he would ask Congress for a civilian follow-on to the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act, which fostered a culture of joint operations within the military services. The new act would create a framework for civil servants and military forces to train and work together in order to facilitate cooperation in post conflict reconstruction

A LEAGUE OF DEMOCRACIES. One of the most far reaching of Mr. McCain’s initiatives as the next President would focus on uniting the world's democracies. He observes that NATO has begun to fill this gap by promoting partnerships between the alliance and great democracies in Asia and elsewhere. But he says we should go further by linking democratic nations in one common organization: a worldwide League of Democracies.

As president, he would seek the widest possible circle of allies through the League of Democracies, NATO, the UN, and the Organization of American States. He notes that during President Ronald Reagan's deployment of intermediate-range nuclear missiles and President George H. W. Bush's Gulf War, the United States was joined by vast coalitions despite considerable opposition to American policies among foreign publics. These alliances came about because America had carefully cultivated relationships and shared values with its friends abroad. Working multilaterally can be a frustrating experience, but approaching problems with allies works far better than facing problems alone

McCain’s League of Democracies would be unlike U/S. President Woodrow Wilson's doomed plan for the universal-membership League of Nations. Instead, it would be similar to what Theodore Roosevelt envisioned: like-minded nations working together for peace and liberty. The organization could act when the UN fails - to relieve human suffering in places such as Darfur, combat HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, fashion better policies to confront environmental crises, provide unimpeded market access to those who endorse economic and political freedom, and take other measures unattainable by existing regional or universal-membership systems.

The League of Democracies envisioned by McCain would not supplant the UN or other international organizations but complement them by harnessing the political and moral advantages offered by united democratic action. By taking steps such as bringing concerted pressure to bear on tyrants in Burma (renamed Myanmar by its military government in 1989) or Zimbabwe, uniting to impose sanctions on Iran, and providing support to struggling democracies in Serbia and Ukraine, the League of Democracies would serve as a unique handmaiden of freedom. If he is elected president, during his first year in office he intends to call a summit of the world's democracies to seek the views of his counterparts and explore the steps necessary to realize his vision - just as America led in creating NATO six decades ago.

EUROPEAN UNION. Revitalizing the transatlantic partnership is high on Mr. McCain’s priority list and he feels that Americans should welcome the rise of a strong, confident European Union. He also concludes that the future of the transatlantic relationship lies in confronting the challenges of the twenty-first century worldwide: developing a common energy policy, creating a transatlantic common market tying our economies more closely together, and institutionalizing our cooperation on issues such as climate change, foreign assistance, and democracy promotion.

RUSSIA. Senator McCain suggests there is a need for a new Western approach to what he labels ‘revanchist’ Russia. This should start by ensuring that the G-8 becomes again a club of leading market democracies: it should include Brazil and India but exclude Russia. Rather than tolerate Russia's nuclear blackmail or cyber attacks, Western nations should make clear that the solidarity of NATO, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, is indivisible and that the organization's doors remain open to all democracies committed to the defense of freedom. He says we must also increase our programs supporting freedom and the rule of law in Russia and emphasize that genuine partnership remains open to Moscow if it desires it but that such a partnership would involve a commitment to being a responsible actor, internationally and domestically.

ASIA PACIFIC REGION. Looking at the Asia-Pacific region McCain observes "that power in the world today is moving east; the Asia-Pacific region is on the rise." If we grasp the opportunities present in the unfolding world, this century can become safe and both American and Asian, both prosperous and free. He says the linchpin to the region's promise is continued American engagement. As president, he would tend carefully to Americas’s our ever-stronger alliance with Australia. He would seek to rebuild its frayed partnership with South Korea by emphasizing economic and security cooperation and would cement America’s growing partnership with India.

The United States should participate more actively in Asian regional organizations, including those led by members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. As president, he would seek to institutionalize the new quadrilateral security partnership among the major Asia-Pacific democracies: Australia, India, Japan, and the United States.

CHINA.. On China McCain says China and the United States are not destined to be adversaries. They have numerous overlapping interests. U.S.-Chinese relations can benefit both countries and, in turn, the Asia-Pacific region and the world. But until China moves toward political liberalization, America’s relationship will be based on periodically shared interests rather than the bedrock of shared values.

WESTERN HEMISPHERE. In his own hemisphere McCain approach is on enhancing U.S. relations with Mexico to control illegal immigration and defeat drug cartels, and with Brazil, a partner whose leadership in the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti is a model for fostering regional security. A McCain administration would give these and other great democratic Latin American nations a strong voice in the League of Democracies - a voice he says they are denied in the UN Security Council. He also concludes that America must build on the passage of the Central America Free Trade Agreement by ratifying pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and Peru and move the process of completing a Free Trade Area of the Americas forward.

AFRICA.With respect to Africa, a McCain presidency would see him seeking to engage on a political, economic, and security level with friendly governments across Africa. And he would establish the goal of eradicating malaria - the number one killer of African children under the age of five -on the continent. He also states that the genocide in Darfur demands U.S. leadership. His administration would consider the use of all elements of American power to stop the outrageous acts of human destruction that have unfolded there.

NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION. On the question of preventing nuclear proliferation Senator McCain would exercise his powers as president to convene a summit of the world's leading powers - none of which have an interest in seeing a world full of nuclear-armed states - with three agenda items. First, the notion that non-nuclear-weapons states have a right to nuclear technology must be revisited. Second, the burden of proof for suspected violators of the NPT must be reversed. Instead of requiring the International Atomic Energy Agency board to reach unanimous agreement in order to act, as is the case today, there should be an automatic suspension of nuclear assistance to states that the agency cannot guarantee are in full compliance with safeguard agreements. Finally, McCain says, the IAEA's annual budget of $130 million must be substantially increased so that the agency can meet its monitoring and safeguarding tasks.

ENERGY.As president, Mr. McCain’s national energy strategy would amount to a declaration of independence from our reliance on oil sheiks and America’s vulnerability to their troubled politics. This strategy would include employing technology to achieve new efficiencies in energy extraction and consumption, enforcing conservation, creating market incentives to encourage the development of alternative sources of energy and hybrid vehicles, and expanding sources of renewable energy. He would also greatly increase the use of nuclear power, a zero-emission energy source. Given the proper incentives, he believes that American innovators, scientists, entrepreneurs, and workers have the capability to lead the world in achieving energy security, and given the stakes, they must.

CLIMATE CHANGE. Senator McCain has proposed a bipartisan plan in the U.S. Senate to address the problem of climate change and ensure a sustainable future for humankind. His market-based approach would set reasonable caps on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, provide industries with tradable emissions credits, and create other incentives for the deployment of new and better energy sources and technologies. He makes it cleat that it is time for America to lead the world in protecting the environment for future generations.


During his race for the presidency Senator McCain makes it crystal clear that from his perspective the protection and promotion of the democratic ideal, in America and abroad, is the surest source of security and peace for the century that lies ahead. On the question of his role he makes no bones about saying the next U.S. president must be ready to lead, ready to show America and the world that the country's best days are yet to come, and ready to establish an enduring peace based on freedom that can safeguard American security for the rest of the twenty-first century. He says he is ready.

On February 19, 2008, the writer Christopher Buckley published an article about Senator John McCain in the NY Times entitled: ‘The Manchurian Conservative.’In his summation he said: "And yet the sum of Mr. McCain seems (to me, anyway) far greater than the parts. How many elections offer such an inspired biography as his? And who among us" — with the exception of Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who issued a statement saying that the thought of Mr. McCain in the Oval Office sent "chills up my spine" — would not sleep soundly knowing that the war hero was on the job calculating how to dispatch more Islamic fanatics to their rendezvous with 72 virgins, without an interlude of water boarding, while in his spare time vetoing Senator Cochran’s latest earmark."

Who is to be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States remains to be decided by the American people. But on January 20, 2009, should the person receiving the keys to the White House turn out to be Senator John McCain, NATO’s Secretary General, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, and the leaders of all of its member states, had best hold onto their hats; for knowing that a future President McCain intends to lead, the Alliance, and indeed the West, will have little choice but to follow or get out of the way.

PRIMARY SOURCE : Op Sit. John McCain. An Enduring Peace Built On Freedom. Foreign Affairs Magazine, November/December 2007 edition, p. 19. New York, NY..