Can John McCain Get Europe Behind Him?

Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, hopes firmly that the battle between the Democrats will last until August. Whom will he take on later in the finals? Senator Hillary Clinton or Senator Barack Obama?


This puzzle will eventually be resolved, but the battle can never last long enough for him.

While the two are fighting each other long and hard, McCain can play the role of the wise statesman who seems to have no other care than the welfare of America.


This week, McCain travels with a delegation from the Senate Committee on Military Affairs to the Middle East and to Europe. Mrs. Clinton is also a member of that committee, but it was impossible for her to travel. She has to fight day-in, day-out for the vote of every homemaker in Pittsburg and of every factory worker in Trenton, Pennsylvania. On 22 April, crucial Democratic primaries are being held there.

While McCain nibbles on a croissant in company of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Hillary Clinton is holding a working breakfast with 600 domestic helpers in Philadelphia. The difference suggests the delightful position the 71-year-old senator finds himself in.


Prior to his departure to Iraq and Europe, McCain mentioned a couple of areas where his presidency would differ from that of President George W. Bush. After his return he will give an important speech in California on foreign policy. Protocol requires a quiet attitude during [foreign] travel.

An American presidential candidate in Paris or London does not desert his own president, especially not when the two men are from the same party.


Prior to his departure, McCain–himself the victim of prolonged torture in Hanoi–said that under his presidency no one who is in American captivity will be maltreated.

He intends to close the Guantanamo detention center and to bring the prisoners to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Furthermore, McCain strives to reach an agreement on combating global warming, provided that India and China also participate.


Although Sarkozy and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel have a more positive attitude toward America than their predecessors, West Europeans may still be in for a surprise. McCain’s tone toward Iran, North Korea and even Russia is quite a bit more bellicose than that of George Bush. And his foreign policy is often already described in Europe as “warmongering.”

McCain has always been a great advocate of the war in Iraq, an intervention that never became popular in Europe. In America, that dislike is strongly muted because of the success of the troop increase (The Surge) in 2007, a bold action where McCain took on the role of some kind of godfather.

Initially, and strangely enough, McCain was anything but an interventionist. In 1990, when President Saddam Hussein overpowered Kuwait, McCain felt that the recapture of that country was not worth the life of a single American soldier.


But this spring he has said that, as long as it doesn’t cost additional American lives, the United States would stay in Iraq one hundred years, if necessary. The only problem is that this presence continues to cost America lives (last week, five more in Bagdad).

It is a pronouncement that his opponent, whoever that may be, can remind him of over and over again this fall.

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