John McCain: Foreign Policy Profile

Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

Shot down over Northern Vietnam in 1967, John McCain was interned in the famous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ for five years. Beaten and tortured regularly, he is to this day, unable to raise his arms above his head. Although offered an earlier release due to his father’s position as Commander in Chief, Pacific Command (CINCPAC), McCain refused to be released until the other POW’s he was with were also released, which lengthened his captivity by five years to 1973. He became the Navy’s liaison to the Senate in 1976. In 1982, he ran for an Arizona seat in the House of Representatives as a Republican and won, and in 1986, he became a Senator. He was a close contender for the Whitehouse in 2000, but apparently lost to Bush over issues related to the rise of the religious right (Bush being closer to the voters in several key states like South Carolina and Virginia). Known for his moderate views, John Kerry is reputed to have asked him to be his running mate in 2004. Despite this, he has strong views on several areas of foreign policy.

John McCain

Click here for John McCain’s Presidential Candidate Page.


Senator McCain believes that the war in Iraq has been riddled with mistakes, and though he believes in supporting Petraeus’s surge with adequate troops and is against putting timelines on the conflict. Most recently (as of July 07) he has been accused of being out of touch with voters on the issue and famously declared Baghdad safe after walking through one of its markets accompanied by a large security force including attack helicopters. He has gone on the record in favour of an indefinite US presence in Iraq, saying he knew best what was in the national interest.


McCain was a strong supporter of the US-China Relations Act in 2000 normalizing US-Chinese trading relations. He does believe that as a rising superpower, China should begin to act more responsibly, citing Chinese missile technology transfers to the Middle East, and a perceived lack of pressure on North Korea over its nuclear programme.


Senator McCain supports the campaign in Afghanistan as part of the greater war against terrorism and supported a leadership role of NATO over ISAF in-country.


Calling himself proudly "pro-Israeli", Senator McCain supports Israel for its values and its long fight against terrorism. He believes that a peace process can only begin with actors like Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria after they have first recognize Israel’s right to exist.

The UN

He supported Bush’s nomination of John Bolton as US Ambassador to the UN, saying that forceful and direct personal traits would be useful in the forum. He has also recently (as of 2007) proposed forming a League of Democracies that could circumvent the UN Security Council when it became blocked.


Speaking about Iran, McCain has said that Tehran's pursuit of nuclear weapons posed "an unacceptable risk" in that it would increase the threat of Iran-sponsored terrorist activities, render the nonproliferation treaty obsolete and cause non-nuclear nations such as Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to "reassess" their own nuclear potential. In 2006, Senator McCain called on the Bush administration to take a tougher line with North Korea, citing the Clinton’s "failure" in dealing with that country. Like many current US politicians, his emphasis has been on hostile states with WMD’s rather than the weapons themselves. He is a strong supporter of the Missile Defence.


McCain spoke warmly about NATO, in a speech in February 8, 2003, at the Munich Conference on Security Policy before European Parliament and defense ministers, saying that he thought it proper that the Alliance take on new members, as well as expand its roles in Afghanistan and Iraq.


Senator McCain supports the war against terrorism and was a key force in creating the 9/11 Commission. He also believes that intelligence capabilities must be bolstered. He has stood apart from the administration in how he believes detainees should be treated in US custody, favouring an interpretation more in line with the Geneva Convention. He has stuck by this stance even though it has at times seemed to risk his candidacy, and may be caused by his own experience as a POW during Vietnam.


Research:  John Hemmings and Aleksander Pruitt

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