Look out, world (Thomas P.M. Barnett, writing in GOOD magazine)Both nominees offer a strongly “realist” perspective on international affairs, with the differences stemming primarily from their generational backgrounds. McCain’s stark realism stems from the Cold War. Ronald Reagan’s personal mystique was largely a fiction of our imagination, but McCain’s legend—the good and the bad—is based on true stories of personal heroism. He lived them all. If you want someone who can recognize human evil and fight it tooth and nail, McCain’s your man.
Obama’s subtle realism emerged from a far different time: the truly tumultuous 1970s, where we first locate much of today’s globalization—energy and food shocks, Middle East conflicts, environmental awareness, global market swings, and transnational terrorism. Befitting those fractured times, Obama’s journey plays out like an ABC “Movie of the Week”: the biracial child who willed himself from a Jakarta grade school to the pinnacle of Harvard Law, landing next on the South Side of Chicago as a community activist who instinctively countered the prevailing counterculture. If you want someone who can recognize global complexity and manage it with confidence and care, Obama’s your man.
Both McCain and Obama represent quintessentially American stories, with their amazing personal trajectories obscuring the underlying political philosophies each brings to a possible administration. Pundits (and Karl Rove) would have you believe that fear alone will settle this election. But the question every voter must answer is not, “Do you fear?” but rather, “What do you fear more?”
Barack Obama will make America smarter about the outside world, and John McCain will make the world smarter about America. And on that score, there are plenty of ways to divvy up the global landscape. Here are ten criteria you can use to compare the candidates and help you break down the basic choices.
On the ten criteria Dr. Barnett identifies, interestingly, he awards three points to Obama, and three to McCain, with four toss-ups. The article is very thoughtful and well worth your time.