McCain’s Double Talk on the Middle East and Obama’s Response

16 05 2008

In an interview in 2006 with former assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration James P. Rubin, Senator McCain urged the Bush administration and others to acknowledge new realities in the Middle East, including the ascendancy of Hamas as governing power in the Palestinian territories.

And when asked if American diplomats should engage Hamas, McCain said, “Their the government and sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them one way or another.”

He also noted that while he understood the antipathy that they inspire among so many people because of their use of violence, “its a new reality in the Middle East and I think the lesson is that people want security a decent life and a decent future then they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that.”

(Fatah is the largest political party in the Palestinian territories and an organization founded by Yaser Arafat and other Palestinian nationalists. Among Western nations, its was and still is the preferred party to negotiate with when compared to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.)

Watch it.

This of course sounds like a very different tune than what McCain has been singing these past few days and weeks where he has more than suggested that Obama would appease Hamas, Iran and Syria by engaging them diplomatically.

But it does not stop there. Max Bergmann at the Huffington Post also notes that McCain defended then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s trip to Syria in 2003, despite the over hyped criticism from the right, and said, “Colin Powell is going to look Bashar aside in the eye and say, look, you know. You better clean up your act here. It’s a new day in the Middle East. And I think it’s entirely appropriate to do that.”

He also went on to say “I think it’s very appropriate that Colin Powell is going to Syria. I think we should put diplomatic and other pressures on them” even though he conceded that Syria was “sponsoring and harboring terrorists.”

Sidenote: Of course, none of this really serves to illuminate our foreign policy debate, and I do feel kinda guilty for participating in some of this gotcha criticism, but hopefully we can appreciate the fact that this is complicated stuff and that name calling only impoverishes our understanding of America’s place in the world.

By the same token, I doubt that once this dust up is over we will have no real debate as to whether or not U.S. has over invested itself in Israel and the associated cost of doing so. The same can be said about what the best containment strategy is with respect to Iran or how to improve our relationship with the Muslim world, and what intelligence reforms are needed to prevent future attacks.

I guess election season tends not to breed sober thinking.

Update: Watch Senator Obama’s response to President Bush’s and McCain’s attacks.

I especially like the fact that Obama tried to contextualize his criticism of President Bush’s counterproductive policies in the Middle East while at the same time putting the onus back on McCain to distance himself from Dubya.




One response

16 05 2008

Barack is already showing he has better judgment than Bush or McCain, that he has a clearer understanding of the situation, and that he’s not afraid to stand up for what he knows is right.

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