John McCain on Foreign Policy

Republican nominee for President; Senior Senator (AZ)


Mistake to ban immigrants from Iraq; they're our allies

Q: The refugee we ban from coming to the US today could potentially be tomorrow's member of our American society.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: [In the War on Terror] you need partners. The executive order [banning all travel from predominantly Muslim countries] was a huge misstep, because it included everybody. If it's perceived as declaring war on the faith, we're all going to lose.

MCCAIN: I was especially interested in our interpreters, who literally put their lives on the line to help us in the vital mission of translating between Iraqis and our members of the military. To lump Iraq and Iran in the same category, I think, was a terrible mistake, and I'm glad that Iraq is not going to be part of those countries that are listed.

Source: CNN 2017 Town Hall debates: John McCain vs. Lindsey Graham , Mar 1, 2017

Russian election tampering could destroy democracy

McCain, who has called for a select committee to investigate Russia's attempts to influence the US election, said the country's efforts require more attention. "Have no doubt, what the Russians tried to do to our election could have destroyed democracy," he said. "And that's why we've got to pay a hell of a lot more attention to the Russians and the things they're doing in Europe--and right now, they're trying to determine the outcome of the French election, and they're using cyber."
Source: CNN 2017 Town Hall debates: Lindsey Graham vs. John McCain , Feb 7, 2017

Create League of Democracies, instead of UN with dictators

Because UN membership is open to any two-bit despot, the organization has become corrupt and dysfunctional. McCain has proposed creating a League of Democracies. Comprising only democracies, it would better reflect our values and better protect US security. Although such a league would present a valuable way to coordinate our actions with our allies, we also have to be prepared to go it alone. No one--no person, country, or international organization--should have veto power over American security.
Source: Leadership and Crisis, by Bobby Jindal, p.252-253 , Nov 15, 2010

Preconditions required for talks with rogue states

OBAMA: We are going to have to engage in tough direct diplomacy with Iran and this is a major difference I have with Sen. McCain, this notion by not talking to people we are punishing them has not worked.

McCAIN: Sen. Obama said he would sit down with Ahmadinejad, Chavez and Raul Castro without precondition. Here is Ahmadinejad, who is now talking about the extermination of the State of Israel, and we’re going to sit down, without precondition, to give a propaganda platform, and therefore then giving them more credence in the world arena and therefore saying--because you will sit down across the table from them--that will legitimize their illegal behavior. Throughout history, whether it be Ronald Reagan, who wouldn’t sit down with [the USSR] until Gorbachev was ready with glasnost and perestroika, or whether it be Nixon’s trip to China, which was preceded by Henry Kissinger, many times before he went. I’ll sit down with anybody, but there’s got to be pre-conditions.

Source: 2008 first presidential debate, Obama vs. McCain , Sep 26, 2008

I’m prepared for the dangerous threats in this world

We have dealt a serious blow to al Qaeda in recent years, but they’re not defeated, and they’ll strike us again if they can. Iran remains the chief state sponsor of terrorism, and is on the path to acquiring nuclear weapons. Russia’s leaders, rich with oil wealth and corrupt with power, have rejected democratic ideals and the obligations of a responsible power. They invaded a small, democratic neighbor to gain more control over the world’s oil supply, intimidate other neighbors, and further their ambitions of reassembling the Russian empire. And the brave people of Georgia need our solidarity and our prayers. As president, I’ll work to establish good relations with Russia so that we need not fear a return of the Cold War. But we can’t turn a blin eye to aggression and international lawlessness that threatens the peace and stability of the world and the security of the American people. We face many dangerous threats in this dangerous world, but I’m not afraid of them. I’m prepared for them.
Source: Speech at 2008 Republican National Convention , Sep 4, 2008

No circumstances where president can disregard treaties

Q: Under what circumstances, if any, is the president, when operating overseas as commander-in-chief, free to disregard international human rights treaties that the US Senate has ratified?

A: I know of no circumstance. Again, it goes back to what the law says--if there is a treaty that the Congress has ratified, we have chosen to make it the law of the land, and it must be obeyed under the terms that it was ratified.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power , Dec 20, 2007

Maintain Cuban embargo; indict Castro

Q: Cuban dictatorship has survived nine U.S. presidents. What would you do differently, that has not been done so far, to bring democracy to Cuba?

A: Of course we need to keep our embargo up. Of course we cannot allow economic aid to flow to Cuba. And if I were president of the United States, I would order an investigation of the shoot-down of those brave Cubans who were killed under the orders of Raul and Fidel Castro, and, if necessary, indict them.

Source: 2007 Republican primary debate on Univision , Dec 9, 2007

We need bigger army for more militaristic foreign policy

McCain envisions a more militaristic foreign policy than any US president in a century. He wants to continue the surge in Iraq, wished it could have been much bigger, and he refused to publicly contemplate any kind of future withdrawal aside from warning at every opportunity that the "consequences of failure" would be genocide in Iraq and Al Qaeda inside America. He imagines US forces in Baghdad and beyond for at least another half-century, arguing that "we've had troops in South Korea for 60 years, and Americans are very satisfied with that situation." He famously sang "Bomb Iran" to the tune of the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann" at a campaign event (and thereafter had his staff play "Barbara Ann" before his appearances); and continues to call that country's nuclear program the "single greatest" threat to the US besides the War on Terror. He has advocated threatening North Korea with "extinction," agitated for military intervention in Darfur.
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.154-155 , Oct 9, 2007

Somalia: alleviating starvation OK; nation-building not

11 days after two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down over Mogadishu, killing 18 and creating the gruesome spectacle of warlords dragging American soldiers through the streets, McCain, who had already been agitating for the troops to come home, did jus what he'd criticized Democrats for doing two decades earlier--tried to cut off funding to precipitate a withdrawal.

McCain said: "Our mission in Somali is over," he said on the Senate floor. "It is time to come home. Our mission is Somali was to feed million starving who needed to be fed. It was not an open-ended commitment. It was not a commission of nation building, not warlord hunting, or any of the other extraneous activities which we seem to have been engaged in. If the President cannot say, 'Here is what we are fighting for in Somalia, that more Americans may perish in service to the goals, and here is why it is worth that price,' then we have no right--no right--to ask Americans to risk their lives in any further misadventures in Somalia.

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.161-162 , Oct 9, 2007

1994: Led opposition to Haiti intervention

McCain had become the GOP's unofficial spokesman on national security issues. In the fall he took the lead in opposing American intervention in Haiti, appearing almost daily on radio and television or in the newspaper. The notion that he might someday be Secretary of State or Defense in a Republican administration was beginning to take root. And there was renewed talk about Vice President.
Source: An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg, p.191 , Sep 18, 2007

We have good reason to expect solidarity of our allies

The Democrats emphasize that military action alone won’t protect us, that this war has many fronts: in courts, financial institutions, in the shadowy world of intelligence, and in diplomacy. They stress America needs the help of her friends to combat an evil that threatens us all, that our alliances are as important to victory as are our armies. We agree. As we’ve been a good friend to other countries in moments of shared perils, so we have good reason to expect their solidarity with us in this struggle
Source: 2004 Republican Convention Speech , Aug 30, 2004

2000: Internationalist vision with populist caution

In the 2000 primary, McCain was the only major candidate to articulate a truly "national" vision for foreign policy. The mystery was why McCain did not fuse the issue of foreign policy with a domestic agenda as part of a seamless package--in effect picking up on Reagan's message of vigilance abroad and less government intrusion at home.

Ultimately, McCain is an internationalist with a populist touch. A former soldier, he shares with Reagan a skepticism about so-called experts, yet McCain's skepticism is leavened by long operational experience. Unlike Bush the elder, McCain is immunized from the charge of being an East Coast internationalist, a Rockefeller Republican. Unlike Bush the younger, McCain has demonstrated a flare for foreign policy, with a capacity to engage in a thrust-and-parry that runs beyond coached lines.

The strength of McCain is that he speaks with a sense of gravity, [and] with the sense of conservative caution in the face of many threats to America's security.

Source: John McCain: An Essay, by John Karaagac, p.212-214 , Sep 20, 2000

Sit down with any leader, but only with pre-conditions

McCAIN: Throughout history, whether it be Ronald Reagan, who wouldn’t sit down with Brezhnev, Andropov or Chernenko until Gorbachev was ready with glasnost and perestroika, or whether it be Nixon’s trip to China, which was preceded by Henry Kissinger, many times before he went. I’ll sit down with anybody, but there’s got to be pre-conditions.

OBAMA: Senator McCain mentioned Henry Kissinger, who’s one of his advisers, who, along with five recent secretaries of state, just said that we should meet with Iran--guess what--without precondition. This is one of your own advisers.

McCAIN: My friend, Dr. Kissinger, who’s been my friend for 35 years, would be interested to hear this conversation and Senator Obama’s depiction of his -- of his positions on the issue. I’ve known him for 35 years. And I guarantee you he would not -- he would not say that presidential top level.

OBAMA: Nobody’s talking about that.

Source: 2008 first presidential debate, Obama vs. McCain , Sep 26, 2008

Overthrow “rogue” governments to keep Americans safe

Q: What area of international policy would you change immediately?
A: Our policies concerning rogue states: Iraq, Libya, North Korea-those countries that continue to try to acquire weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. I’d institute a policy that I call “rogue state rollback.” I would arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically elected governments.
Source: GOP Debate on the Larry King Show , Feb 15, 2000

Our conscience influences US intervention, as in Rwanda

Q: Would you intervene militarily if human rights abuses were at stake?
A: There are times when our principles are so offended that we have to do what we can to resolve a terrible situation. If Rwanda again became a scene of horrible genocide, if there was a way that the US could stop. But we can never say that a nation driven by Judeo-Christian principles will only intervene where our interests are threatened because we also have values. If genocide is allowed, the consequences later are more severe.
Source: GOP Debate on the Larry King Show , Feb 15, 2000

Africa: Money for AIDS would be lost to corruption

Q: Should we appropriate $300 million out of the surplus to help fight AIDS in Africa?
A: I would do anything in my power to stop this terrible affliction. But we have corrupt governments; we have organizations that don’t treat the people. So before I spent our taxpayers’ money on that, I would have to make sure that it would go to the recipients and those of these poor people who are afflicted with this terrible disease. Frankly, in a lot of parts of Africa today, I do not have that confidence.
Source: GOP Debate in Michigan , Jan 10, 2000

Cuba: No diplomatic and trade relations

McCain believes that the US should not have diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba.
Source: 1998 National Political Awareness Test , Jul 2, 1998

John McCain on Asia

1994: Worked with John Kerry to normalize Vietnam relations

In 1993, McCain, working with Senate Democrat (and fellow Vietnam veteran) John Kerry, urged Clinton to lift US trade sanctions against Vietnam. In 1994, McCain and Kerry sponsored a resolution to lift the embargo, against the opposition of veterans' groups and prominent Republican senators like Bob Dole and Phil Gramm. The two would continue to work with the president to accelerate the normalization of trade relations with the country.
Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p. 62 , Mar 25, 2008

1970s: Vietnam justified because of Domino Theory

McCain's snap take, as captured in his 1970's U.S. News essay, contained plenty of analysis that went missing in his subsequent statements about Vietnam.

The most interesting of the details McCain left out of all subsequent interviews was his anecdotal evidence lending support to the controversial domino theory--the notion that once Vietnam fell, the communists would sweep through the rest of southeast Asia. It was one of the main justifications for the war, and especially for staying in it long after success seemed unlikely. In the essay, McCain cited the following: "After we liberate South Vietnam we're going to liberate Cambodia. And after Cambodia we're going to Laos, [then] Thailand, [then] Malaysia, and then Burma. We're going to liberate all east Asia." What was McCain's interpretation? "Some people's favorite game is to refute the 'domino theory.' But the North Vietnamese believe it. This is what Communism is all about--armed struggle to overthrow capitalist countries."

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.123 , Oct 9, 2007

Suu Kyi and the people of Burma will rule themselves someday

On the first public appearance following her release from house arrest in 2002, Aung San Suu Kyi apologized to her people. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting. But my freedom is not a major triumph for democracy; my freedom is not the object of our struggle.” So she fights on. And she will prevail. The regime must relent eventually. Suu Kyi and the people of Burma will rule themselves someday. The tyrants who have opposed and terrorized them for so long are simply no match for them. They lack their courage.
Source: Why Courage Matters, p.165 , Apr 1, 2004

Support the One-China policy, don’t weaken it

Q: If Taiwan moves towards declaring independence from China, would you try and stop them?
A: Of course I would. There has been “strategic ambiguity,” but Clinton destroyed that policy, when he went to China and called the Chinese his strategic partner. He destroyed the delicate balance of ambiguity, which is causing many of these problems now. Of course I would tell the Taiwanese that they should observe the one China policy which calls for peaceful reunification.
Source: GOP debate in Los Angeles , Mar 2, 2000

$1M political donations by Chinese Army should not be legal