On the US foreign policy, I had an opportunity to speak to two experts; Mr David Ignatius of Washington Post and Dr Richard Bush III of The Brookings Institution.According to David, candidates using divisive and negative rhetoric are likely to lose in the elections (president, senate, house of representatives etc). He said both McCain and Obama are promoting unity in their different ways. He said Americans are sick of partisanship.
He observes that the Bush administration has been very different since a year ago. It had promoted pre-emptive action in 2001 but is seen as more willing to use multilateral approach through the UN lately.
Since last year, the Bush administration has reestablished a direct access/communication to Tehran. This will assist the new administration this coming 20th January 2009 to continue working with Tehran.
The Middle East peace process is ongoing and President Bush is still keen to break the deadlock between Israel and Palestine. The current administration has started to negotiate with the Taliban on Afghanistan.
David is convinced that Obama's foreign policy will be significantly different from the incumbent. He will be more responsive to the international community. McCain's war decorative may actually work against his image as an internationalist. Sometimes talking endlessly about protecting America and national security can be counter productive.
Meanwhile, Dr Bush opines there will be policy continuity. The focus on North Korea by the Bush administration has neglected Japan's sensitivity. Japanese leadership is not comfortable with the development in North Korea.
It is likely that both candidates will continue with the 6-party talk on Korea Peninsula and denuclearisation of North Korea. McCain would be more suspicious of North Korea.
On China, both candidates share the same policy. Both see the value of broad engagement and collaboration with China. Due to lack of understanding of the Asian giant's direction, there is great uncertainty and anxiety in Washington DC regardless whoever takes over.
McCain may be more suspicious of China and may opt for a balance of power approach. Obama is better at anticipating China's reaction. The tricky part is both candidates have pledged their support for Taiwan status quo.
On South East Asia, Bush's policy which focused overly on counter terrorism has neglected the region. Since the Vietnam war, the successive US administrations did not pay too much attention on this region. Under McCain, there is a chance of the administration to shift some focus here.
What are some concerns and problems? The level of attention and intensity is low on East Asia which is an important region for US. US is too distracted by the Middle East. Some other concerns including ongoing tension in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Iran is also posing a serious challenge to the US and the international community.
The next US president would have to work on US image and brand abroad. The current uneasiness between the West and Islamic world needs a more holistic and broader approach. Not the current mutual suspicion.
However, the foreign policy direction may take a back seat in the next 6 months because the main dissatisfaction in the US started with an economic crisis. McCain or Obama will have their hand full with providing a solution to their electorates.
David Ignatius is a twice-weekly columnist for The Post, writing on global politics, economics and international affairs. His column appears on Thursdays and Sundays. He is also creator and co-moderator of Post-Global, an online conversation about international affairs at washingtonpost.com. Ignatius has written six novels: "Body of Lies" (April 2007), “The Sun King” (1999), “A Firing Offense” (1997), “The Bank of Fear” (1994), “SIRO” (1991), and “Agents of Innocence” (1987). Ignatius’ column won the 2000 Gerald Loeb Award for Commentary," a 2005 Edward Weintal Special Citation, and the 1984 Edward Weintal Prize for Diplomatic Reporting.