At his blog on NRO, David Frum offers an answer to the question Ramesh put last week (to Lisa Schiffren) about what makes Rudy Giuliani stand out as uniquely qualified among the other GOP candidates to be commander-in-chief. (Like David, I also support Rudy.)
I will have more to say about this in a bigger piece, but I would respectfully suggest that answers can also be found by comparing the Foreign Affairs essays offered thus far by four of the top GOP candidates. (The excellent Foreign Affairs series, available on its website, presents ”vision” essays from top GOP and Dem candidates. Thus far, there hasn’t been one from Thompson — I don’t mean that as a knock on Fred; they do one GOP and one Dem in each bi-monthly issue and I suspect they just haven’t gotten to him yet since he was not even a candidate when the series began.)
Huckabee’s has deservedly been panned in these parts; Romney’s is far better and merits more discussion. I want to focus for the moment, however, on one that has escaped much attention: McCain’s — the leitmotif of which is the purported need “to restore and replenish the world’s faith in our nation and our principles” — which faith he contends has been “frayed” by the Bush administration. While the Senator gets points for standing firm on Iraq (which makes him no different from the other candidates — and on which he is no less hazy than the others on what “victory” means), much of the rest of his lengthy piece could have been written by any conventional Democrat (America needs to listen better, we need to resist “abusive tactics” in conducting interrogation, we need to add a new intelligence bureaucracy, we need to add a vast new international bureaucracy, we need to “institutionalize our cooperation [with the European Union] on climate change, foreign assistance, and democracy promotion,” etc., etc.
One illustrative contrast with Giuliani can be found on the Israeli/Palestinian issue. Here is McCain:
The long-elusive quest for peace between Israel and the Palestinians must remain a priority. But the goal must be a genuine peace, and so Hamas must be isolated even as the United States intensifies its commitment to finding an enduring settlement.
History demonstrates that democracy usually follows good governance, not the reverse. U.S. assistance can do much to set nations on the road to democracy, but we must be realistic about how much we can accomplish alone and how long it will take to achieve lasting progress. The election of Hamas in the Palestinian-controlled territories is a case in point. The problem there is not the lack of statehood but corrupt and unaccountable governance. The Palestinian people need decent governance first, as a prerequisite for statehood. Too much emphasis has been placed on brokering negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians — negotiations that bring up the same issues again and again. It is not in the interest of the United States, at a time when it is being threatened by Islamist terrorists, to assist the creation of another state that will support terrorism. Palestinian statehood will have to be earned through sustained good governance, a clear commitment to fighting terrorism, and a willingness to live in peace with Israel.
McCain is business as usual — even though there is no good reason why the quest for peace between Israel and the Palestinians should be a priority, much less that we should intensify our commitment to a settlement in the absence of Palestinian fitness for statehood. Giuliani says we can talk about it after the Palestinians grow up. That’s rather a large difference, and it’s far from the only one. McCain, for example, would perpetuate the State Department way of doing things (as part of restoring our allegedly tarnished image in the world) while Giuliani argues that we need to make major changes in the State Department and Foreign Service so that they are judged by how clearly they advocate U.S. policy.
There is a lot more to say. But for now, I’ll offer that there is nothing mystical or childish about the observation that there is plenty separating McCain and Giuliani’s expressed foreign policy views — to Giuliani’s credit.