Like it or not, war is going to be the biggest factor in the 2008 election. Even in the unlikely scenario that a full-scale pull out from Iraq occurs by November next year, an indelible mark will have been left on the minds of voters; let’s face it- we’re not going to be plunging into any more “aggressive” foreign situations in the near future without either great multilateral support, pressure from home itself, or in all probability, both.

That being said, where do the four front-running candidates (McCain, Giuliani, Clinton, Obama) stand with regard to not only the Iraq war, but war and peace in general? Based on their prior actions, their voting records, and quotes, this guide should bring you up to date.

John McCain (R )

McCain was one of the many Congressmen to vote in favor of the Iraq War. Before we get that far into his career, though, it’s important to note the balance he’s displayed between authorizing too much power and too little power. This is best exemplified by his votes in regard to Kosovo in 1999 under the Clinton administration. While voting to authorize air strikes (in accordance with NATO), he voted against “authorization of all necessary force” two months later. His 1999 voting record says two things about McCain’s war policy- he’s not afraid to go to war, but he’s willing to draw a line beyond which he won’t cross.

McCain, though, drew tremendous ire for his Iraq War stance; he’s stated “he’s willing to be the last man standing” in support of the war. Perhaps most telling is his ’99 quote saying the U.S. needs to be a “superpower.” McCain’s biggest flaw, foreign-policy wise, has been his hard-headedness in terms of Iraq. “Every intelligence agency in the world, not just US, believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.” This May 13th 2007 quote, which has flown largely under the radar, had been proven an outright lie by numerous journalists as early as 2006.

Hillary Clinton (D)

Clinton’s first documented war-related action occurred about 40 years back; Carl Bernstein, author of A Woman in Charge, writes, “she steered the antiwar movement at Wellesley away from the kind of confrontation that convulsed other campuses.” Fast forward 31 years from then to 1999, when, as First Lady, she successfully convinced her husband William to use force in Serbia. These two incidents, separated by three decades, pretty clearly show that Clinton is comfortable with using force, provided she picks her spots.

As she’s continually repeated since 2002, Iraq was one of those spots she picked; it just turned out to be picked on faulty evidence. She’s one of the increasingly large group who maintain that they would not have voted for the Iraq war had they read the NIE (instead of being briefed) or not been “sold” a war.

Clinton’s most telling quote is probably this: “[The Iraq War] is not America’s to win or lose.” This stance contrasts relatively sharply with McCain’s “America’s need to be a superpower” quote, and implies a reluctance to go to any war, anywhere without multilateral support.

Rudy Giuliani (R)

The biggest criticism of Giuliani’s foreign policy can be summed in one word: nation-building. And what an explosive volatility that word has come to have. But this is a policy he has stuck to, no matter how much it’s caused him to be smashed for in the media; he’s even gone so far as to say, “liberating the Iraqis is something we should be proud of,” when numerous media reports have shown that the general consensus of most Iraqis as to the war’s ultimate outcome is not “liberation.”

In 2001, Giuliani made some disturbingly naiive comments as to the nature of terrorism, and how the U.S. should respond. While this may have just been due to his comments’ proximity in time to the horrific 9/11 attacks, his message that we don’t need to understand the underlying triggers for terrorism in order to combat it is eerily similar to comments the Bush administration made to take a nation to war on shaky premises.

All that being said, Giuliani’s past actions have painted a picture of a man not willing to back down from war if he sees a justification- a picture sure to resound with voters still living the aftermath of September 11th.

Barack Obama (D)

Widely viewed as the candidate with the “least experience” in terms of wars and foreign policy as early as last year, Barack Obama found his situation exacerbated by his his August 1st speech which appeared to condone attacks on Pakistan- were they to be justified. But to buy into this portrayal is to ignore the consistency of his Iraq War criticism- something which can’t be said of most other Democratic candidates- from his initial opposition to his continued confrontations with the Bush administration.

What’s most important to note about Obama is his insistence on foreign diplomacy as a necessary predecessor to any shows of force; most analysts agree today that the solution to Iraq issue lies in diplomacy, and the future of the Middle East probably can’t be settled through war.

In recent months, Obama has appeared impatient to show the public that he’s as ready to go to war as Clinton and other candidates, given the right situation. The 2004 quote that best describes his foreign stance: “I’m not opposed to all wars, just dumb ones.”

Enjoy this article? Check out other ’08 election issues



2 Responses to “War”

  1. 1 Mayur Karve

    I am curious what you think of Ron Paul’s foreign policy. I thought it was the most enlightened one. (By the way Arvind showed me the website…we met very briefly during 1 ld event…)

  2. Mayur,

    Ron paul has no foreign policy other than screw em all. I am more concerned about his domestic policy and his racist past. You don’t find posts like this about Obama: Ron Paul’s racist remarks .

    Vote Obama!

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