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John McCainInternational good citizenship is critical for improving America's security and image in the world, according to Sen. John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee for U.S. president. Citing the growing interdependence of the U.S. and other countries and calling terrorism the "central threat of our time," in a major foreign policy speech last week. McCain said that America should be a good steward of the planet and join with other nations in a new global compact -- a League of Democracies -- to unite the world's free countries against tyranny, disease and environmental destruction. McCain explained:

Today we are not alone…In such a world, where power of all kinds is more widely and evenly distributed, the United States cannot lead by virtue of its power alone. We must be strong politically, economically, and militarily. But we must also lead by attracting others to our cause, by demonstrating once again the virtues of freedom and democracy, by defending the rules of international civilized society and by creating the new international institutions necessary to advance the peace and freedoms we cherish.

Referring to the threat of radical Islamic terrorism as the "transcendent challenge of our time," McCain said:

Prevailing in this struggle will require far more than military force. It will require the use of all elements of our national power: public diplomacy; development assistance; law enforcement training; expansion of economic opportunity; and robust intelligence capabilities.

In the speech, McCain vowed to:

  • Establish the goal of eradicating malaria in Africa as a way to save millions of lives and add luster to America's image in the world;
  • Engage friendly governments in Africa on a political, economic and security level, insisting on improvements in transparency and the rule of law;
  • Form a "completely democratic hemisphere," between the U.S., Latin America and Canada, "where trade is free across all borders, where the rule of law and the power of free markets advance the security and prosperity of all;"
  • Deal with a rising China, based on "periodically shared interests" rather than a "bedrock of shared values" until China moves toward further political liberalization;
  • Develop a transatlantic relationship that addresses a common energy policy, a transatlantic common market, and "revanchist" Russia, and institutionalizes cooperation on climate change, foreign assistance and democracy promotion; and
  • Include India and Brazil in the G8 but exclude Russia.

CGD's video-focused Web site, Global Development Matters has been tracking the 2008 presidential campaigns to see how each of the candidates would address global development and the U.S. role in the world. Other organizations, including the ONE Campaign and Bread for the World, have similar efforts underway.

I previously analyzed speeches that addressed global development issues by Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, so I'm delighted to see that McCain has also now shared more of his views on these issues.

Much of McCain's speech appears to be framed along lines similar to those presented in CGD Senior Fellow Steve Radelet's essay on Modernizing Foreign Assistance for the 21st Century: An Agenda for the Next U.S. President, the Center for U.S. Global Engagement's presidential policy framework Smart Power: Building a Better, Safer World and a recent USA Today op-ed from retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni and retired Navy Admiral Leighton Smith on the need for presidential candidates to elevate support for the use of "smart power" for a better, safer world and America.

Of course, words aren't actions -- or even necessarily policies. I'm eager to see Senator McCain's rhetoric on these issues translated into concrete policy proposals and to be incorporated into his campaign Web site. This could be done best by adding a "global development" or "foreign policy" issues section (currently neither exists) or at least integrating a discussion of these important issues into the "national security" issue section of his Web site.

My colleagues and I at CGD continue to encourage all the presidential candidates to say more about their vision for a better, safer America and world and the policies that they think will get us there.

For those of us in the Washington, D.C. area, National Public Radio will be hosting a public "America Abroad Media Town Hall Meeting" next week entitled "America's International Image" in which the senior foreign policy advisors from the presidential campaigns of Senators Clinton, McCain and Obama will address their strategies for improving America's standing abroad. The meeting will be hosted by Kojo Nnamdi of WAMU and Marvin Kalb of America Abroad Media (details here).


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.