Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

McCain Gets Eagleburger's Vote On Foreign Policy

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As the presidential election approaches, Talk of the Nation asks guests to make the case for John McCain or Barack Obama on the basis of foreign and domestic policy credentials. Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger explains why McCain's international policy makes him the right choice in 2008.

McCain, he says, would most likely be "tougher" on countries such as Russia, Sudan and Afghanistan — in addition to supporting the war in Iraq — and also would try more diplomacy with foreign countries.

"He [McCain] has said and he means it that there is a great deal of repair necessary amongst our traditional allies," he says.

And what about the foreign policy credentials of McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin? They are not great, nor do they make everyone comfortable, Eagleburger tells NPR.

"I don't think at the moment she is prepared to take over the reins of the presidency," he says. "I can name for you any number of other vice presidents who were not particularly up to it either. So, the question, I think, is — can she learn and would she be tough enough under the circumstances if she were asked to become president?"

"Give her some time in the office and I think the answer would be — she will be adequate. I can't say that she would be a genius in the job," he adds.

Eagleburger was the secretary of state for George H.W. Bush, the undersecretary of state for political affairs for Ronald Reagan, and a U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia.

McCain Adviser Outlines Foreign Policy Priorities

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Presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama will debate foreign policy Friday, in the first in a series of presidential debates.

Robert Kagan, a foreign policy adviser to McCain and a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, spoke with Madeleine Brand about the Republican candidate's priorities and positions on Iraq, Pakistan and terrorism.

"The first priority of any president is going to be to make sure that they can continue to protect the United States from another attack like Sept. 11," Kagan said. "I would expect anyone who comes into the White House — and this will certainly be true of John McCain — to want to immediately get the full briefing of what the threats are and what we are doing to stop them."

He said Bush hasn't gotten the credit he deserves for keeping the nation safe.

"One thing that is true of the Bush administration is we've gone seven years without another attack on the United States, which I think is something no one thought would be possible after Sept. 11," he said.

Kagan also acknowledged that the United States' international status has been damaged during Bush's presidency — particularly around the issue of Iraq.

"The fact that the strategy chosen to fight [in Iraq] was a bad strategy has cost us ... in terms of world opinion and in terms of our standing in the world."

Therefore, after national security, McCain's "top priority would be to reestablish and strengthen America's relations with this democratic allies around the world" — something Kagan implied Obama does not have the know-how to do.

Though he never mentioned Obama by name, he said, "I have every confidence that someone who is experienced ...and knows the world as well as John McCain will do a better job of repairing those alliances than someone who is coming to this very new and doesn't know this world very well."

Making Sense Of Iraq

Kagan, who was an early proponent of the Iraq war, defended his and McCain's position.

"I do not regret removing Saddam Hussein from power. I think if Saddam Hussein were in power today benefiting from $140-a-barrel oil, he would be a very great menace. And then we would have two menaces in the region — Iran and Saddam Hussein's Iraq."

He took issue with elements of Bush's policy, however.

"From the very beginning of the conflict, I and others, including John McCain, said the Bush administration mishandled the way the war needed to be conducted," he said.

Working With Pakistan

On Pakistan, Kagan said, it's important for the United States to "work with the democratic government and help it achieve both our aims as well as its aims."

Of late, Taliban and al-Qaida fighters along Pakistan's border have become a serious problem. Some have proposed that the United States should cut off billions in aid to the country until the government changes its approach. Kagan, however, was optimistic that no such move would be necessary.

"It's true there are some elements of the Pakistani government that have been reluctant to deal with this problem, especially in the military and the intelligence services," he said. "We have a very new Pakistani leader. Right now the objective needs to be to strengthen them to do what we can to help and to hope that they will start to do the right thing in these difficult areas."

If they don't, however, he did not rule out other options.

"If Pakistan can't deal with the problem," Kagan said, "then the United States will have to protect its interests and the interests of Afghanistan and others."



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