Jacob Heilbrunn makes the case that John McCain’s foreign policy orientation is less Republican than…Barack Obama’s. Heilbrunn writes that by continuing much of the Bush program and disposition, aggressively skeptical of international organizations and impatient diplomatic processes, McCain is continuing a break with Republican tradition. He offers brief evaluations of the Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and the elder Bush administrations, highlighting their preference for “restraint and diplomacy.” He concludes that,
[. . .] it is Obama who threatens to steal from the traditional Republican playbook in vowing to break with the Bush era. Obama’s pragmatic approach, I suspect, probably has more in common with cautious Republican realists than many Democrats may realize. But it’s also the case that Democrats and Republicans alike, in the wake of Iraq, are beginning to take a fresh look at realism. McCain, who used to espouse tenets closer to realist thought, might also want to join them. Otherwise, the real problem with McCain might not be that he’s too conservative in his approach to international relations. It could be that he isn’t conservative enough.
My assessment assigns a great deal of idealism to Obama’s foreign policy. It seems to carry a strong does of American exceptionalism (Obama’s is of a less militaristic variety than that of the neoconservatives) and a dash of modernization theory (especially the idea concept of “dignity promotion”). In all, though, Obama’s policy outlook operates on many of the same primary assumptions as the Clinton administration, and indeed the campaign has recycled many Clinton-era advisers. It is realism with liberal internationalist characteristics — or perhaps the reverse.