Republican presidential candidate John McCain laid out a detailed foreign policy blueprint in a speech in Los Angeles. McCain warned against a premature U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, but also said as president he would pursue closer relations with allies abroad. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has the latest on the election campaign from Washington.
McCain spoke to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council and described the threat of radical Islamic terrorism as the transcendent challenge of our time.
But McCain also sought to put some distance between himself and the Bush administration with a commitment to do a better job of reaching out to U.S. allies around the world for support and consultation on a wide range of issues.
"Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed," he said. "We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies."
McCain spoke of expanding links with Latin America, urged China to move toward political liberalization, and promised to make the eradication of malaria in Africa a priority if he is elected president.
But McCain devoted a large part of his speech to warning against the dangers of a hasty withdrawal from Iraq.
McCain said he agreed that Iraqi political leaders must do more to take responsibility for their own security.
But the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said a U.S. defeat in Iraq would hand al-Qaida a victory and would threaten the United States for years to come.
"We have incurred a moral responsibility in Iraq," he added. "It would be an unconscionable act of betrayal, a stain on our character as a great nation, if we were to walk away from the Iraqi people and consign them to the horrendous violence, ethnic cleansing and possibly genocide that would follow a reckless, irresponsible and premature withdrawal."
McCain's views on Iraq differ sharply with those of both remaining Democrats in the race, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Both have promised to begin a withdrawal of U.S. troops if they are elected president, and both have criticized McCain for wanting to continue President Bush's policy in Iraq.
Obama was back on the campaign trail in North Carolina after a few days vacation and once again promised to end the war in Iraq if elected in November.
"So our nation is at war on two battlefronts," he said. "We are fighting a war that we need to win in Afghanistan against al-Qaida, and a war that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged that has distracted us from the war we need to win."
Senator Clinton continued to campaign in Pennsylvania, which holds a primary on April 22. Clinton has a big lead in the polls in Pennsylvania and a victory there is essential to keep alive her hope of winning the Democratic presidential nomination.
Obama, however, holds the lead in the overall delegate count.