Doug Bandow has a hard-hitting critique of John McCain over at AntiWar.com. McCain opponents will find it one of the best compilations of tightly wound reasons to agitate against John McCain getting the keys to the White House and the codes to the “football.”
But in the piece, Bandow also notes that McCain used to be a “reluctant warrior.” This is absolutely true. I have known John McCain for years — ever since he served on the Advisory Board of the Nixon Center of which I was the founding executive director. John McCain was not timid when it came to appropriate applications of force, but he also demonstrated a facility for strategic calculation which meant that there were usually never yes-no, bomb-don’t bomb, binary decisions but gray zone and nuanced realities to any decision.
McCain used to be the kind of leader I thought would be Nixonian in his core — and frankly, I’d feel better about Obama or Hillary Clinton if either demonstrated more of the foreign policy skill sets that a Richard Nixon had. But McCain seems to have rejected Nixonian approaches to enlightened American self-interest in the world and has become a crusader for a new phase of neoconservative-inspired interventionism.
Or alternatively, perhaps McCain’s acts of belligerency are all an act?
From Bandow’s provocative McCain critique:
John McCain is a man of experience, courage, and honor, but they are overshadowed by his vices, such as his angry temperament, his tendency to go postal against his Senate colleagues, questioning their intelligence and principles when they disagree with him. We should expect better of someone entrusted with control of the strongest military on earth.
McCain’s sanctimonious certainty is another problem. In one of the Republican debates he declared “I’m the expert” on Iraq. Yet on his most recent trip to Iraq he confused Iraq and Iran, denouncing the latter, a Shi’ite state, for training al-Qaeda, made up of Sunnis, and had to be corrected by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who was standing nearby at the obligatory press conference on the “nonpolitical” trip. Will Sen. Lieberman move into the White House along with the McCains to hover near the phone at 3am?
McCain similarly appears to share George Bush’s simplistic view of the world. Both see America threatened by numerous enemies who are all alike – al-Qaeda members, secular dictators, Palestinian terrorists, Baathist insurgents, Shia nationalists, Hezbollah fighters, Taliban fundamentalists, Hamas activists. McCain told an audience at the Virginia Military Institute last year: The Iraq war “is part of a broader struggle in the Arab and Muslim world, the struggle between violent extremists and the forces of modernity and moderation.” The extremists, he adds, “wish to return the world to the 7th century.”
Actually, most Iraqi insurgents want to drive America out of their country. Most al-Qaeda terrorists want to punish the U.S. government for appearing to wage war on Muslims – in Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere. Most Hamas and Hezbollah fighters want to defend their respective homelands from Israeli intervention, backed by America. Lots of other people simply want the U.S. to stop interfering in their affairs. “They” all hate America, but for very different reasons.
Perhaps McCain sees no need to sweat the small stuff, like the facts. After all, he assures the American people, “the war will be over soon.” Rather like Vice President Richard Cheney’s claim – three years ago – that the insurgency is “in the last throes.”
However, the biggest problem with McCain is his philosophy. Sen. McCain once was a reluctant warrior, balking at intervention in Lebanon, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and even Iraq the first time. Today he is the most belligerent of the original 2008 presidential contenders, except, perhaps, for Rudy Giuliani. If there is a war in the world, McCain can be counted on to join it. And if one doesn’t exist, he is determined to start it.
America should not run from wars it absolutely cannot avoid — but to seek them out is national lunacy.
– Steve Clemons