The choice between Obama and McCain is not only the business of U.S. citizens. It is also a concern of Europeans – and for good reason.
Recently, people have been saying that no matter who wins the election, Obama or McCain, it wont make any difference to the world. The new president will have to worry about American issues first, which will in any event clash with Europe and other parts of the world. As, therefore, Obama and McCain’s foreign policy strategy will look the same, there is no reason for Europeans to look forward to Obamas presidency.
Sounds plausible. However this way of thinking ignores an important aspect: the centre of debate on foreign affairs is not somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, but in the USA. The Red America of the Republicans and the Blue America of the Democrats, have a completely different view of their countrys role in world policy. It is as different as their views on tax policy and on socio-religious issues such as abortion and stem cell research. However, this difference isnt particularly visible in the positions of the presidential candidates. Both of them have to present their views in a more general way by expressing their vision of the world.
McCain is one of the exceptionalists that believe America played an exceptional role in world history. Although McCain is prepared to engage in international collaboration, he wont allow any authority – including the International Court of Justice and public international law – to preside over the countrys democratic constitution and corresponding institutions of the United States of America – even the UNOs power would be restricted. In other words, for McCain, multilateralism is simply a tool to achieve national goals and to preserve ideology. McCains slogan Country first means America first. As president, McCain would continue the policy of unilateralism of Bushs era.
In contrast, Obama describes his homeland as part of the Global Village. In his speech in Berlin, Obama stated that Americas interests are tightly interconnected with those of other countries. The majority of American citizens share this opinion.
It is true that during the Clinton era there were a number of transatlantic conflicts. However, most of them occurred because of the republican majority in Congress. Bill Clinton himself supported Europes important decisions such as the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Protocol and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
A different vision of the world has an effect on one’s relationships. It is likely that as president McCain would develop a better relationship with the heads of the EU than did Bush. After all, he has a better understanding of European concerns. He wouldnt bomb Iran on a whim and hed do more for the climate. In comparison, Obama as the president would find a reason to argue with Germany and France over sanctions on Tehran or over the question of sending troops into Afghanistan.
While McCain continues to keep a certain distance between the USA and Europe, Obama will enter the White House as an honorary European. This said, of course Europeans will be excited about the results of the American presidential elections.