Sunday, October 26, 2008

Warriors of a Feather?

Robert Kaiser’s WAPO discussion of Obama and McCain’s foreign policy similarities contains a grain of truth. Kaiser points out that both want to increase the size of the military, and both envision using the armed forces for both “moral and strategic” reasons, and neither intends to end the war on terror.

But the examples used to make this case for symmetry actually demonstrate deep differences. Not in what the candidates would do, perhaps, but in why they would do it. In just war theory this makes all the difference.

Examples: Obama has cited Rwanda and Nazi Germany and promised to stem genocides where they occur during his watch. McCain pledges to “roll back rogue states” to spread democracy. These are completely different goals – spreading democracy is not the same as ending mass atrocity: in fact, the two goals typically work against one another. Moreover, while ending mass atrocity would constitute “just cause” under just war precepts, regime change to make other states look just like us would not.

In short, there is a world of difference suggested here – just not, perhaps, what some on the political left might hope.

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