Symposium
The Netherlands

Resident Fellow
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
One is black, one is white. One is young, one is old. One is tall, one is short. Such are the differences between Barack Obama and John McCain. Commentators seem to think that the two candidates hold very, very different views of the world. Yet they are one and the same. Their choice of words and their party affiliations distinguish them, but their foreign policies do not. Obama wants to combat "global terrorism," McCain to win "the war on terror." This is a matter of style, not content.

What orders their priorities is continuity with their predecessors (despite Obama's insistence that he wants to "end the mindset that got us into war") and the simple fact of a world where America is the dominant power. This, in turn, means that whoever wins the election will choose from a much narrower range of options than his campaign speeches might suggest. If there is a crisis that directly threatens American interests and this requires military intervention, then either candidate will intervene. In 1991, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, energy flows into the American economy were imperiled, and so there was military intervention. By contrast, there is no military intervention in Sudan to save the people of Darfur because no direct threat or vital interest presents itself.

Short of that, Obama wants to boost the defense budget and so does McCain. Both view the war against terror as an urgent priority (although they refer to it by different names). Both see an America in crisis, its economy in peril at home, its global power tested by China and Russia abroad. Both wish to distance themselves from the policies of the Bush administration. Of course, one always inherits the disastrous policies of one's predecessor. The question, then, is how one deals with this. Obama says that he will withdraw from Iraq "responsibly," but a responsible withdrawal seems to be McCain's goal as well. . . .

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a resident fellow at AEI.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014 | 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
The Constitution as political theory

Please join us for the third-annual Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture as James Ceasar, Harry F. Byrd Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, explores some of the Constitution’s most significant contributions to political theory, focusing on themes that have been largely unexamined in current scholarship.

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Speaker of the House John Boehner on resetting America’s economic foundation

Please join us as Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) delivers his five-point policy vision to reset America’s economy.

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Reforming Medicare: What does the public think?

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