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McCain Outlines Foreign Policy

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Sen. John McCain, outlining his foreign policy positions on the heels of an overseas trip, is renewing his call for the United States to work more collegially with democratic nations and live up to its duties as a world leader. Video by AP

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By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 27, 2008

LOS ANGELES, March 26 -- Sen. John McCain on Wednesday promised a collaborative foreign policy that would seek the input of allies abroad and would contrast sharply with the go-it-alone approach of the Bush administration.

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McCain (Ariz.) also refused to give ground on Iraq to his Democratic rivals, declaring that the continued U.S. presence there is a "moral responsibility" and that a "reckless" withdrawal would be an "unconscionable act of betrayal, a stain on our character as a great nation."

In his first extensive policy speech since securing the delegates needed to win the Republican presidential nomination, McCain delivered an impassioned argument that achieving democracy in Iraq is necessary for a peaceful world.

"Those who argue that our goals in Iraq are unachievable are wrong, just as they were wrong a year ago when they declared the war already lost in Iraq," he said, without naming Democratic candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. "Those who claim we should withdraw from Iraq in order to fight al-Qaeda more effectively elsewhere are making a dangerous mistake."

But even as McCain offered a defense of President Bush's current war policy, he outlined a sharp critique of the administration's dealings with foreign allies.

In a speech to the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles, McCain called himself a "realistic idealist" and outlined a worldview mirroring that of some Bush administration critics, who say the first task of the next president must be to repair relations around the world.

"Today we are not alone," McCain said. "Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed."

The speech drew a quick response from Obama spokesman Bill Burton. He castigated McCain for being "determined to carry out four more years of George Bush's failed policies, including an open-ended war in Iraq that has cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars while making us less safe."

In a statement, Clinton said: "While there is much to praise in Senator McCain's speech, he and I continue to have a fundamental disagreement on Iraq." Clinton said that McCain, like Bush, opposes "a swift and responsible withdrawal from Iraq" and wants to "keep us tied to another country's civil war."

Despite McCain's support for the Iraq war, he said the United States should take a different approach to future conflicts.

In the speech, McCain renewed his call for a "global compact -- a League of Democracies" that would unite the world's free countries against tyranny, disease and environmental destruction. As he did in Europe last week, he played down unilateral action and stressed cooperation on global warming, torture of prisoners and trade.

"We need to listen -- we need to listen -- to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies," McCain said. "When we believe international action is necessary, whether military, economic or diplomatic, we will try to persuade our friends that we are right. But we, in return, must be willing to be persuaded by them."


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