Bloomberg: John McCain would take a "harder line" toward Iraq, Iran and Russia than the Bush administration, said Richard Holbrooke, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
By Viola Gienger
July 11 (Bloomberg) — John McCain would take a "harder line" toward Iraq, Iran and Russia than the Bush administration, said Richard Holbrooke, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
"Senator McCain is running to the right of President Bush," said Holbrooke, a supporter of McCain's Democratic rival, Illinois Senator Barack Obama. "He is taking very strong positions which really are neoconservative."
McCain's foreign-policy "advisory team has the same schizophrenic approach that George W. Bush has had," said Holbrooke. The Arizona Republican senator's backers, he said, include "realists" such as former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and James Baker, as well as "neoconservatives" such as Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who split with the Democrats over his support for the war in Iraq.
To date, McCain, 71, has sided with the more hawkish elements, said Holbrooke, a longtime Democrat who served in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
"Iraq, he's harder line; Iran, he's harder line," Holbrooke said in an interview on Bloomberg Television's "Political Capital with Al Hunt," scheduled to air today. "He's famously said that the only thing worse than war with Iran is a nuclear Iran." In addition, Holbrooke said McCain "wants to throw the Russians out of the G-8, which is an impossibility and a bad idea."
Randy Scheunemann, McCain's director of foreign policy and national security, said Holbrooke is "frustrated" that New York Senator Hillary Clinton, who he supported, didn't win the Democratic nomination.
Holbrooke "is now scrambling to gain favor with the Obama camp by distorting John McCain's record," Scheunemann said in a statement. McCain and Bush differ on several issues, including the war in Iraq, the treatment of detainees and climate change, he said.
On Afghanistan, Holbrooke said the U.S. and other donors should withhold the $20 billion in aid they have pledged unless President Hamid Karzai's government moves more aggressively to fight corruption and the drug trade.
"I don't think the United States and the rest of the world should be giving him money" without conditions, Holbrooke said.
The U.S. would provide about half of the amount pledged in Paris last month to back Karzai's five-year, $50 billion plan to develop Afghanistan's infrastructure, security forces and judicial system and reduce poverty.
He said the war in Afghanistan, now in its seventh year, probably would last longer than the 14 years the U.S. was involved in Vietnam.
"This is the war we cannot fail in," Holbrooke, 67, said. "This is the war which, if we fail, al-Qaeda and the Taliban come back."
Turning to Iran, Holbrooke said the "force option" shouldn't be taken "off the table completely," though at the moment a strike by the U.S. or Israel isn't "a desirable thing" or "justified by the facts."
"We have two wars on our hands," he said. "We don't need a third."