Presidential Candidates on Foreign Policy—International Law

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What will U.S. foreign affairs look like if John McCain prevails? What if President Obama sets the agenda? Erik Leaver looks behind the hype to the records, advisors, and promises of the presidential candidates.

Click on the topics to see the candidates' statements on different aspects of foreign policy.

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Hillary Rodham Clinton spacer Barack Obama spacer John McCain
Hillary Clinton
Democratic Senator from New York
spacer Barack Obama
Democratic Senator from Illinois
spacer John McCain
Republican Senator from Arizona
“It is critical to our security and our standing in the world that the United States once again lead the world in promoting and advancing international law… International law and international institutions are tools that help us to promote and advance our interests and values, not traps that limit American power.” [12] spacer “Promoting—and respecting—clear rules that are consistent with our values allows us to hold all nations to a high standard of behavior, and to mobilize friends and allies against those nations that break the rules…international norms help us advance many interests, including non-proliferation, free and fair trade, a clean environment, and protecting our troops in wartime.” [12] spacer Seeks a new global organization, League of Democracies, to “act when the UN fails… This League of Democracies would not supplant the UN or other international organizations but complement them by harnessing the political and moral advantages offered by united democratic action.” [13]

What the outliers said:
Ron Paul:
“So called free trade deals and world governmental organizations like the International Criminal Court (ICC), NAFTA, GATT, WTO, and CAFTA are a threat to our independence as a nation. They transfer power from our government to unelected foreign elites.” [14]
Nuclear Proliferation
“I will certainly reduce our arsenal... I also am strongly against their efforts to have a new generation of nuclear weapons.” [15] spacer “We will not pursue unilateral disarmament. As long as nuclear weapons exist, we'll retain a strong nuclear deterrent. But we'll keep our commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty on the long road towards eliminating nuclear weapons.” [16] spacer John McCain strongly supports the development and deployment of theater and national missile defenses. “It's naive to say that we will never use nuclear weapons.” Wants to revise the NPT to stop non-nuclear-weapons states from acquiring nuclear technology. [17, 18, 13]

What the outliers said:
Bill Richardson:
“It took a Manhattan project to create the bomb. We need a new Manhattan project to stop the bomb.” [19]
The prison camp at Guantanamo should be closed because it “compromises our longterm military and strategic interests, and it impairs our standing overseas.” [20] spacer Guantanamo should be closed and habeas corpus should be restored for the detainees. He says the United States should have “developed a real military system of justice that would sort out the suspected terrorists from the accidentally accused.” [21] spacer “I would immediately close Guantanamo Bay, move all the prisoners to Fort Leavenworth [Kansas] and truly expedite the judicial proceedings in their cases.” [22]

What the outliers said:
Rudolph Giuliani:
The allegations of prisoner mistreatment at Guantanamo have “been grossly exaggerated, and many of the reports that I see are that it's not terribly different from any other prisons.” [23]

Erik Leaver wrote this article as part of A Just Foreign Policy, the Summer 2008 issue of YES! Magazine. Erik Leaver is the policy outreach director for Foreign Policy In Focus and a research fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Photo of Eric Leaver

1. .
2. . Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy In Focus, February 4, 2008
3. .
4. . John McCain,
5. .
6. . Council on Foreign Relations
7. .
8. . Associated Press, February 22, 2005
9. , January 6th, 2008
10. . Houston Chronicle, February 29, 2008
11. .
12. . American Society of International Law, 2008
13. . John McCain, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2007
14. .
15. ., April 3rd, 2007
16. ., Chicago, October 02, 2007
17. . Council on Foreign Relations, Published August 5, 2007
18. , John McCain,
19.. Bill Richardson, Council for a Livable World
20. . Hillary Rodham Clinton, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2007
21. . Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2007
22. . Philip Sherwell in Cedar Falls, Iowa,, March 19, 2007
23. Interview with Rudy Giuliani, The Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2007
24. . Glenn Thrush, Washington Bureau, January 19, 2006
25. , New York Times, June 3rd, 2007
26. . Michael Gordon and Jeff Zelen, New York Times, November 1, 2007
27. . Council on Foreign Relations, July 17, 2007
28. . Mike Huckabee, The Center for Strategic and International Studies, September 28, 2007
29. . Remarks of Senator Clinton at Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, January 19, 2006
30. . Justin Elliot, Mother Jones, February 1st, 2008
31. . Thomas Beaumont, Des Moines Register, March 13, 2007
32. . Paul Alexander, The Rolling Stone, September 27, 2001
33. . Council on Foreign Relations, April 23, 2008
34. Obama: Pluses, minuses on Latin America issues. Andres Oppenheimer, Miami Herald, February 17, 2008
35. . YouTube, February 10, 2008
36. . March 8, 2007
37. ., June 20, 2007
39. . MSNBC, April 27, 2007
40. . Hindustan Times, April 11, 2005
41. , Washington, D.C. Council on Foreign Relations, June 28, 2007
42. . Council on Foreign Relations
43. . John McCain and Bob Dole, Washington Post, September 10, 2006
44. . Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy In Focus , December 10, 2007
45. , March 6, 2008
46. . Sam Youngman, The Hill, March 1, 2008
47. ., Washington, DC, August 1st, 2007
48. .
49. . The Brookings Institution, February 25, 2004
50.. Council on Foreign Relations, August 1, 2007
51. . August 30, 2004
52. . John Edwards, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2007
53. . February, 2008
54. . Michael Brendan Dougherty, The American Conservative, January 28, 2008
55. . Council on Foreign Relations, January 10, 2008
56. . April 23, 2007
57. . Ron Paul, Associated Press, December 23, 2007


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