We have spent months debating Barack Obama’s suggestion that he might, under some circumstances, meet with Iranians and Venezuelans. It is a sign of what is wrong with the foreign-policy debate that this idea is treated as a revolution in U.S. policy while McCain’s proposal has barely registered. What McCain has announced is momentous—that the United States should adopt a policy of active exclusion and hostility toward two major global powers. It would reverse a decades-old bipartisan American policy of integrating these two countries into the global order, a policy that began under Richard Nixon (with Beijing) and continued under Ronald Reagan (with Moscow). It is a policy that would alienate many countries in Europe and Asia who would see it as an attempt by Washington to begin a new cold war.
Right. I mean, regardless of what you think of the merits of McCain’s thinking on this front, surely the country deserves some debate and analysis of what’s going on here. Instead, insofar as any attention has been paid at all to McCain’s foreign policy vision it’s centered on his empty promise to try to act nicer to Western Europeans. But his views toward Russia and China would represent a much more dramatic and consequential departure from current practice — just not in a friendly and moderate way.