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Obama’s Pragamtism vs. McCain’s Realism

Posted June. 20, 2008 03:03,   


Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama met with his newly-created national security advisory group consisting of 13 Democratic foreign policy veterans Wednesday at a hotel in Washington and listened to their advice on policies regarding diplomacy and security.

What is noticeable is that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher and former Defense Secretary William Perry attended the meeting. They were former President Bill Clinton’s top advisers on national security and helped Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary race.

Also in attendance were former national security adviser Anthony Lake, who serves as a leader in the group, and former Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice, who is now a senior researcher of Brookings Institution.

Obama has declared at the meeting, “Rather than stick to rigid ideologies, I will return to practical diplomacy which is America’s tradition.”

○ Obama camp boasts organizing ability

In fact, the Obama camp launched the advisory group on national security early last month, though it was not made public. “At the time, some 50 security-related officials who give Obama security-related advice, officially or unofficially, gathered together and discussed foreign and security policy directions for the campaign,” an official of the Obama camp said on the condition of anonymity.

They will participate in mapping out Obama’s foreign and security policies through an Internet site not open to the public.

The Wednesday meeting was presided over by Dennis McDonough, foreign policy advisor to former Senator Tom Daschle. He will coordinate Obama’s foreign and security policies and oversee sub-committees such as Asia, Europe, the Middle East and anti-terrorism bureaus.

The Asian bureau is headed by Jeffrey Bader, director of the Brookings Institution’s China initiative, and Richard Bush, senior fellow and director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the same Institution, is involved in policies for China and the Korean Peninsula.

Stephen Bosworth, Donald Gregg and Thomas Hubbard, former American ambassadors to Seoul, also unofficially assist Obama in drawing up policies for the Korean Peninsula.

○ Mixture of ideologies in the McCain camp

In a security advisory group for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, realists, who argue for cautious approaches in realizing “America’s Power,” cohabit with neo-cons who dream of reviving a “Great America.”

Neo-cons are led by McCain’s chief foreign-policy adviser Randy Scheunemann, who runs the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, and Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. However, former State Department Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage, who is called a realist, and Michael Green, a former Asia adviser to President George W. Bush and now senior researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, take the lead in formulating Asia policies.

Gary Samore, vice president at the Council on Foreign Relations, said in an interview with Newsweek, “I think McCain is a very interesting mix. He is neo-conservative but at the same time, he is in a midway position like internationalists.” McCain also presents himself as a “realistic idealist.”

○ Two candidates’ Korea policies

Regarding the Korean Peninsula, McCain put forth his rough ideas before Obama.

According to McCain’s “Korea Policy” report, reportedly drafted by Michael Green, he said, “Consolidating and expanding alliance with South Korea is vital to protect America and its allies from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and to support mutual security and prosperity.”

On the North Korean nuclear issue, the report said “disabling North Korea’s nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible way is a matter of vital importance for the United States.” The report also depicted North Korean leader Kim Jong Il as a dictator.

For his part, Obama also stresses a stern reaction to nuclear proliferation, but he presents “dialogue” as the best way to address the problem.

“Obama wants to fully leverage America’s influence to deal with countries whose interests conflict with America’s,” said Dennis McDonough in an interview with ABC. “What matters is the willingness to have a dialogue,” he added.