In a number of recent newspaper articles, I have read about the “big picture”. Specifically, Obama gets it and McCain does not. The big picture refers to what frames the candidates’ world views, that is “the cold war” or the “post cold war”. The cold war involved very dangerous times and great risks and uncertainty for the US. Being strong and talking tough were prerequisites. The US talked for it friends and allies, and Russia talked of its. The post cold war is much different and in particular, the years following George W Bush will be amazingly different. While being strong is still necessary, talking tough begs the questions (1) to whom, and (2) how can you back up your tough talk.
Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq has shown two things. Against non-nuclear enemies and in the role of invader, the US is pretty good. In the role of occupier, it is another story. In purely business terms, the Iraq invasion and occupation should have gotten the CEO fired. Economically this military action has been a disaster that keeps on giving. Listening to McCain we should expect more of the same.
Even if McCain might have managed the occupation better than Bush and Cheney, it stills begs the question of why the Iraq diversion at all. It was sufficiently clear in 2000 that China and India had booming economies growing at rates unheard of in the US this century. With a combined 2 1/2 billion citizens, these two emerging countries represented a very real risk to the US economic leadership. By not renouncing the Iraq invasion, McCain has de facto endorsed the colossal waste of time, prestige, and money (our treasury is now full of IOU’s totally $ 9+ billion).
The years immediately ahead will host numerous rulers as corrupt and evil as Saddam Hussein. The threats imagined and presented by radical Islamic extremists will continue despite our efforts in Iraq or Afghanistan. The world is also entering a worldwide recession from which the path to growth and prosperity is not clear. The relationships between China-India, India-Pakistan, Russia-China, Europe-Russia, Isreal-Middle East countries, and the US to all of them, is situational and not clear cut as in the Cold War. What should be clear is that military force is useless and only valuable as a deterent.
Immigration will continue to be a fact of life in the US. We need immigrants to grow our economy and we need policies that enable these new Americans to integrate successfully into the country’s social fabric. Our infrastructure badly needs repairs. Healthcare, social security, education, roads, bridges, rivers, and airports all need updating in order to support a growing economy for over 300 million. And all of this must be done in the recognition of the need to find alternative energy sources and reduce green house gas emissions at the same time. This is a BIG PICTURE.