My thoughts on Bill Kristol are usually condemnatory, so I was pleasantly surprised when he defended Obama’s national security credentials recently. Here he is at an AIPAC conference explaining that there are few major differences between Obama and McCain on foreign policy.
“There are actually no disputes of that nature…with the exception of Iraq this time. Obama’s not for cutting the defense budget; Obama’s not for pulling troops back from our forward positions around the world, with the exception of Iraq. Obama and McCain don’t actually differ, at least on paper, even on Iran, where they’re arguing about whether they would talk to [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad or not — and I think that’s an important dispute. Still, at the end of the day, Obama doesn’t say he would rule out the use of force. McCain certainly is committed as he said this morning to trying to increase economic pressure on Iran, which Obama has also talked about.”
Now, Kristol’s not entirely correct here. Obama opposed the Senate amendment that classified Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. He is open to a softening of American policy toward Cuba. He generally sees a larger role for diplomacy than McCain, and rejects the bellicosity of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy, while McCain embraces it. He rejects conventional wisdom on international issues. John McCain seems to embody it.
But the strategic thing for Kristol to do would be to be paint Obama as weaker than McCain on defense. So weak in fact that he endangers American (and Israeli!) security. McCain said just this yesterday, but Kristol declined in his AIPAC comments. So in the interest of giving credit where it’s due, kudos to Kristol.