LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Republican John McCain on Wednesday called for the United States to work more collegially with democratic allies and live up to its duties as a world leader, drawing a sharp contrast to the past eight years under President Bush.
"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," the likely presidential nominee said in a speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. The intent of the address was to signal to world leaders that he would end an era of what critics have called Bush's cowboy diplomacy.
"We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies," McCain added.
Fresh from a trip to the Middle East and Europe, McCain also staked out anew his position on Iraq, staunchly defending his support for a continued U.S. military mission as the war enters its sixth year and the U.S. death toll tops 4,000. He derided calls for withdrawal from Democratic rivals Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.
"We have incurred a moral responsibility in Iraq. 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," McCain said to sustained applause from the several hundred people.
Without naming them, McCain said both Democratic candidates "are arguing for a course that would eventually draw us into a wider and more difficult war that would entail far greater dangers and sacrifices than we have suffered to date."
McCain's campaign billed the foreign policy speech as a major address, the first of several set for the coming weeks as the GOP's presidential pick seeks to reintroduce himself to the general public and outline his stances on a range of issues.
Little was new in the speech.
Rather, McCain repackaged long-standing policy positions in an attempt to stand on his own and set himself apart from Bush, whose support is at a low point as the public craves change. Democrats have argued that a McCain presidency would be another four years of the Bush reign.
McCain advocated anew a successor to the Kyoto Treaty on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison for suspected terrorists and U.S. leadership on a global nuclear disarmament effort as he called for a renewed commitment to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
More broadly, he offered a fresh acknowledgment that the United States' standing on the world stage has been tarnished and that the country has an image problem under Bush. Critics at home and abroad have accused Bush of employing a go-it-alone foreign policy in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when the administration spurned international calls for caution and led the invasion into Iraq.
"The United States cannot lead by virtue of its power alone," McCain said. Instead, the country must lead by attracting others to its cause, demonstrating the virtues of freedom and democracy, defending the rules of an international civilized society, and creating new international institutions to advance peace and freedom, he said.
"If we lead by shouldering our international responsibilities and pointing the way to a better and safer future for humanity ... it will strengthen us to confront the transcendent challenge of our time: the threat of radical Islamic terrorism," said the four-term Arizona senator and member of the Armed Services Committee.