Foreign Policy Blogs

Exploring Sarah Palin's Worldview

As you all know, this is a blog about the US Presidential candidates’ views on the world, and vice versa. Last week we explored the foreign policy outlook of the Democratic vice presidential candidate, Joe Biden. Now that Senator John McCain has named his pick for vice president, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, it's her turn.

With all due respect, this may be a bit of a short post, since, as the Associated Press recently quoted a Republican spokesperson, “Palin has more experience catching fish than dealing with foreign policy.”

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Seriously, I set out to write a fair and balanced post about the Republican vice presidential candidate's foreign policy outlook, and as it turns out I can't find much to report–even what comes out of McCain's mouth isn't very promising. For example, read the conversation on this page that Senator McCain's had with Chris Wallance on Fox News Sunday. Wallace really drills McCain on his claims that Palin suffices in the foreign policy department:

“WALLACE: You have criticized Obama as being, quote, "dangerously unprepared to be president." In the sense of national security and foreign policy specifically, isn't Sarah Palin even more dangerously unprepared?

MCCAIN: Oh, no. Look, she has got the right judgment. She has got the right judgment. She doesn't think, like Senator Obama does, that Iran is a minor irritant. She knows that the surge worked and succeeded, and she supported that.

Senator Obama still, still to this day refuses to acknowledge that the surge has succeeded. She has been commander-in-chief of the Alaska Guard, that has served back and back (ph). In fact, as you know, she has got a son who is getting ready to go.

But she has had the judgment on these issues and — that Senator Obama has not had in the — he has had all the wrong judgments. And Governor Palin understands these issues, and she understands the challenges that we face.

So she has had 12 years of elected office experience, including traveling to Kuwait, including being involved in these issues. And look, I'm so proud that she has displayed the kind of judgment and she has the experience and judgment as an executive. She has run a huge economy up there in the state of Alaska. Twenty percent of our energy comes from the state of Alaska, and energy is obviously one of the key issues for our nation's security.

WALLACE: But, Senator, you talked about her years of experience. Ten of those years were as a city councilwoman and mayor of a town of 9,800 people. And in terms of foreign policy, in March of 2007, after, two months after the surge had started, she was asked about it, and she said: "I've been focused on state government. I haven't focused on the war in Iraq." Understandable for a governor; not understandable for a vice president.

MCCAIN: Well, by the way, also she was a member of the PTA. I think it's wonderful. But the point is she has been to Kuwait. She has been over there. She has been with her troops, the National Guard that she commands, who had been over there and had the experience. I'm proud of her knowledge of these challenges and issues…”

To be fair, much, much more is known about Joe Biden's worldview because of his 36 years of service in the Senate. Furthermore, one of the major reasons Senator Obama chose Biden for the post was this very foreign policy experience. According to Congressional Quarterly, McCain had different motives when choosing Palin.
I’ll continue to monitor the situation to see if any more information about Sarah Palin's foreign policy credentials crops up.How about international views of McCains pick? In this department there is some news; now that the news of the Republican vp candidate is beginning to sink in, the international voices are beginning to chime in.

Over the weekend German broadcaster Deutche Welle cited Josef Braml, an expert on US affairs with the independent think tank German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), said “McCain's choice was unexpected, but inspired: It enabled the candidate to avoid some political pitfalls, take on the mantle of change, and open up the Republican tent in one fell swoop.”

Geoff Elliott Washington correspondent of The Australian worries that McCain's pick might be bad for Australian-US relations:

“Australia, rightly, has no say in the electoral process in the US. We are observers. But this is a poor decision. The Howard government and now the Rudd Government have had to do some hefty political lifting at home to ensure that, despite the mistakes in Iraq and the unpopularity of the Bush administration, the alliance with the US remains core foreign policy. As an ally who has fought alongside the US forces in every conflict America has been involved in for the past 100 years, there is reason to be worried. As an ally, we deserved better than this from McCain.”

Side note: A mildly humorous (if it weren't true) debate going on in the press, some are arguing that Sara Palin has foreign policy experience simply because Alaska is located geographically next to Russia. Read here if this story piques your interest.



Melinda Brouwer

Melinda Brower holds a Masters degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She received her bachelor's degree in Political Science and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a graduate diploma in International Relations from the University of Chile during her tenure as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She has worked on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, for Foreign Policy magazine and the American Academy of Diplomacy. She presently works for an internationally focused non-profit research organization in Washington, DC.