Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

John McCain and the Warrior Spirit in American Foreign Policy – Original

Posted by M. C. on August 27, 2018

Only half the US prisoners in North Vietnam were released. Few from Laos and Cambodia. The US knew they were there. To avoid political embarrassment they were abandoned. McCain led the cover-up.


…In his person, and his public pronouncements, McCain was the perfect representative of the nascent imperial class: born in the Panama Canal zone, the son of an Admiral, he was almost fated to become what he did indeed become – the archetypal Praetorian, the veritable embodiment of America’s post-World War II empire. A paladin of the cold war while it lasted, and a tireless advocate of post-cold war hegemonism, his favorite phrase was “boots on the ground,” and he championed this as a policy option for virtually every foreign policy problem confronted by US policymakers…

Indeed, McCain was on the other side of the barricades from from our founding during the run up to the Kosovo war, right up to the present day, In 1999, he rose to prominence – after the “Keating Five” scandal – as the one dissident in a quasi-“isolationist” (i.e. anti-war) GOP. His recommendation? “Boots on the ground!” This position was lapped up big-time by the pro-Clinton media, which had him on every Sunday talk show and then some.

Prior to this, McCain had been cautious about supporting US intervention overseas, e.g. he opposed Reagan sending troops to Lebanon. However, the Bosnian civil war, in the course of which the US sent 20,000 troops to Central Europe to enforce the nonexistent “peace,” was a turning point for him…

The 9/11 attacks found him ready, willing, and able to lead the American overreaction, and his alliance with the neoconservatives in the run up to the invasion of Iraq was a natural. While eventually admitting the Iraq war was a “mistake” – many years after the failure of his signature policy stance – his view of that war was still ambiguous, mired in the implied contention that we could have won if only the American people had “stayed the course.” This isn’t surprising considering his view of the Vietnam war, which he also believed we could have won – and indeed did win –if only the American people hadn’t thrown away our “victory” and forced our officials to withdraw.

The Obama years saw him as one of the few Republican defenders of our interventions in Libya and Syria. Again, he was all over the media with his pro-war message, together with his sidekick, Sen. Lindsey Graham: the two seemed to be competing as to which one of them was the biggest warmonger. While Graham is consistently pro-war, he is often seen as a caricature of himself: McCain was taken more seriously. Perhaps Tom Cotton will take his place as the most unhinged interventionist in the Senate, but he’ll have to step up his act quite a bit in order to equal the late Senator from Arizona…

McCain retained the looming muscularity of the Jacksonian stance, and also its bold unilateralism: and yet the “Don’t bother with people abroad” aspect was completely erased, its place taken by a nosiness that knew no bounds. Wherever the possibility of war involving the US raised its head, there was McCain, surrounded by media, calling for “boots on the ground.” In particular, he was a fan of the Islamist revolt against Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad, and traveled to the region to literally stand by them – some of the most unsavory people on earth. From Georgia to Ukraine to Timbuktu, he was an omnipresent scold, urging a US presence on every continent, in the midst of every dispute.

McCain hated the President with a passion that was more than ideologically-motivated, but still the Senator’s vitriol – which Trump returned in more than equal measure – was in large part colored by the ostensibly pro-peace agenda of Trump and his fellow deplorables. Trump’s famous attack on the Iraq war, and George W. Bush, at the South Carolina Republican primary debate, was undoubtedly enough to put him on McCain’s target list. The gulf only widened as the campaign took its course…

McCain’s legacy is that of a Republican party that no longer exists: a recent poll taken shortly before his passing shows he’s loved by the Democrats and disdained by the Republicans. This probably reflects, at least in part, a sea change in the way both parties approach the foreign policy issue: McCain’s rabid interventionism is much closer to the Democrats’ anti-Russian pro-NATO Euro-centric expansionism than the increasingly “mind your own business” attitude of the typical Republican voter…

No politician of equal stature and consistency is apt to take McCain’s place as the country’s leading warmonger for the simple reason that this kind of demagoguery has mostly gone out of style – except in the Green Rooms of the Sunday talk shows, where the war god reigns supreme. Poor Lindsey Graham is going to be mighty isolated in the coming days, a lone laptop bombardier calling for wars from the Middle East to the Far East without the company of his co-pilot…

Many tributes to McCain in the media from his admirers come with the phrase “and we shall not see his like again.” To which one can only reply: and thank God for that.

Be seeing you


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