Skip to main content

Allies key to McCain's foreign policy vision

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Clinton says McCain "discounts the warnings of our senior military leadership"
  • NEW: Obama: McCain promising a third Bush presidency
  • McCain emphasizes working with allies to ensure peace
  • A withdrawal from Iraq soon would be a "stain on our character," he says
  • Next Article in Politics »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Sen. John McCain emphasized the need to collaborate with democratic allies in a foreign policy speech Wednesday.

Sen. John McCain speaks to the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles, California, Wednesday.

"Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed," the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said. "We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies."

Just like former President Truman gathered democracies to fight communism at the start of the Cold War, McCain said the U.S. should work with the world's democracies to form a global pact "to advance our values and defend our shared interests" when he addressed the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles, California.

He also said the United States must act as a "model citizen" that takes on the leadership responsibilities of "a great nation." Video Watch McCain call himself a "realistic idealist" »

"We must be strong politically, economically and militarily. But we must also lead by attracting others to our cause, by demonstrating once again the virtues of freedom and democracy, by defending the rules of international civilized society and by creating the new international institutions necessary to advance the peace and freedoms we cherish," he said.

Calling himself a "realistic idealist," McCain touched on U.S. relations with almost every part of the globe, including Asia, South America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East during the speech.

He said he supports a global greenhouse gas emissions treaty to succeed the Kyoto treaty, and said he wants to close the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the U.S. has been holding terrorist suspects.

He also reiterated his opposition to withdrawing troops from Iraq soon, saying that could lead to "horrendous violence, ethnic cleansing, and possibly genocide" and would be a "stain on our character."

The Republican presidential candidate also focused on the threat of terrorism and al Qaeda, saying "our goal must be to win the 'hearts and minds' of the vast majority of moderate Muslims who do not want their future controlled by a minority of violent extremists."

"In this struggle, scholarships will be far more important than smart bombs," he said.

McCain's approach to foreign policy appears to be a change in emphasis from the Republican administration of President Bush, which acted unilaterally in many foreign policy areas.

Critics of the Bush administration's approach, including both Democratic presidential candidates, say it has tarnished the world's image of the United States.

Sen. Hillary Clinton responded to the speech, saying "While there is much to praise in Sen. McCain's speech, he and I continue to have a fundamental disagreement on Iraq."

"Like President Bush, Sen. McCain continues to oppose a swift and responsible withdrawal from Iraq. Like President Bush, Sen. McCain discounts the warnings of our senior military leadership of the consequences of the Iraq war on the readiness of our armed forces, and on the need to focus on the forgotten front line in Afghanistan."

Sen. Barack Obama, at a stop in Greensboro, South Carolina, Wednesday lashed out at McCain's policies. Video Watch Obama's comments on McCain »

"I honor John McCain's service our country, but when he starts talking about staying in Iraq for a hundred years ... that tells me all he wants to do is to continue on the George Bush failed policies of the past," he said. "We don't need more Bush. We don't need a third Bush term and that's what John McCain is promising."

McCain, however, signaled he would pursue foreign policies that differ from those of Bush, suggested CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

"McCain's message: 'I am not George W. Bush,' " Schneider said. Video Watch more of Schneider's analysis »

He put himself in McCain's place, suggesting what McCain meant was: "Yes, I support his Iraq policy. Yes, I am the candidate of his party. Yes, he has endorsed me. And yes, I embrace the Bush doctrine. But I would do it all differently -- no torture, no Guantanamo, no unilateralism, no militarism.

"In fact, I'm not even going to mention Bush's name. I'm a Harry Truman Republican," Schneider said.

But the one Bush policy McCain has agreed with is keeping troops in Iraq despite opposing public opinion.

"I hold my position because I hate war, and I know very well and very personally how grievous its wages are," McCain said. "But I know, too, that we must sometimes pay those wages to avoid paying even higher ones later."

The Arizona senator's speech comes just days after he returned from a trip overseas to Iraq, the Middle East and Europe.


McCain talked about his grandfather's, his father's and his own sacrifices in war. McCain, whose father and grandfather were admirals, served as a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War and was held as a prisoner of war. Video Watch McCain call war 'wretch beyond all description' »

"I detest war. It might not be the worst thing to befall human beings, but it is wretched beyond all description," McCain said. "When nations seek to resolve their differences by force of arms, a million tragedies ensue." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report.

All About John McCainForeign PolicyEconomic Issues

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print