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March 08, 2013

McCain, Graham Need to End the Super-Hawk Crap If They Want Any Kind of Hawkishness In American Foreign Policy At All

I still consider myself a hawk.

But I don't consider myself a super-hawk. Post-9/11, I became a super-hawk. I'm not one any longer.

John McCain and Lindsey Graham are still pushing a super-hawk line that the public widely rejects.

They need to stop. If the only choice is between appeasement and super-hawk full-commitment total war, the public will choose appeasement. It's choosing appeasement right now in the case of Iran, which by now -- thanks to appeasement and stalling -- likely already has an (undeclared) nuke. (And don't ask me to speculate about what crooked deal Obama may have forged with them, to keep that nuke existing (helps Iran) but undeclared (helps Obama, but not the US).)

McCain wanted total commitment to Iraq-- whatever it took. Literally, whatever it took. If it took 100 years, well than that's what it would take.

Fine. But then he also demanded that the US intervene in Libya and now calls for the US to intervene in Syria.

Perhaps it would be shorter to compose a list of places John McCain does not want the US military involved.

I remember the Kosovo air war. I was plenty against the Kosovo air war, because I strongly suspected we were only in it because of Monica Lewinsky.

But I remember John McCain's response: McCain argued that Clinton must get "boots on the ground" -- US army soldiers and Marines -- in Kosovo. Or at least be "prepared" to put boots on the ground.

Wait, what? Why?

Remember Clinton's claim that it might spark a World War if we didn't intervene, as conflagrations in the Balkans had sparked WWI and (not sure how he figures this) WWII? Yeah, the press doesn't remember that either, and never brought that up when attacking George W. Bush for saying that it was important to world peace to pacify Iraq. They just completely forgot Clinton's much more alarmist claim that we must intervene in Kosovo, of all places, or face a Third World War.

But my actual point is that the Kosovo intervention, to the extent it could be challenged, could be challenged on the grounds that it wasn't our concern and wasn't our fight.

But McCain, oddly enough, decided the opposite -- not only was it critical, but it was so critical we had to interject US ground forces or else we'd suffer some kind of a "loss of honor."

His idea seems to be that if we're fighting a war on the cheap -- stealth jets, cruise missiles, drones -- we're not really fighting it because we have no skin in the game or something. Like it's only our readiness to put US forces at risk of capture or killing that proves our "honor."

I gotta tell ya, I don't mind fighting wars in which almost all the risks fall upon the enemy's soldiers. But McCain has this medieval concept that only face-to-face battles are sufficient to safeguard our national "honor." (Rather like how the crossbow was reviled as a coward's weapon because it killed knights so easily and didn't put the archer himself at great risk.)

I am certain that the way forward is not continuing to talk the way McCain talks, in that Kennedyesque "We will bear any burden" way. When Kennedy said that, it was a lie. It was just a bit of noble-sounding rhetoric. He didn't really intend to "bear any burden." It was a quote for the press.

But McCain actually seems to believe it -- which is why the public will praise Kennedy's grandiose lie (it makes us feel good about ourselves without actually committing ourselves to anything) while being a bit alarmed by a similar-sounding McCain pronouncement.

I think it's time to stop talking about having "no limits" as to what we may do with our military and start talking about the limits which certainly exist. These are real, living, flesh-and-blood men and women. They're not lead figures in a war game. When we talk about "bearing any burden," we are not "bearing any burden." They are.

As Governor Perry remarked, relating, I think, the feelings of a Marine: "They say America's at war, but America's not at war. America's military is at war. America's at a shopping mall."

Now that's the job they signed up for, of course, but let's not just send them everywhere to die over this medieval notion that "honor" is only satisfied when there's a cost in blood. If we can accomplish objectives more cheaply, and lose less American blood, certainly, let's do that, and the hell with McCain's sense of "honor."

I mention this because of McCain's freak-out over Rand Paul.

“Senator McCain is obviously well aware of the politics of this – he just doesn’t care,” said one McCain aide. “He’s doing what he thinks is right. Unlike many of these guys, he’s actually been involved in a few national security debates over the years. He knows that jumping on the Rand Paul black helicopters crazytrain isn’t good for our Party or our country, no matter what Twitter says.”

I think McCain is blowing his stack for two reasons:

1, Because his mind simply rejects any possible limit to military action reflexively. So when Rand Paul suggests that the President can't just kill a non-combatant American citizen on American soil, McCain revolts against it without even thinking. Because this is war, and in war there must not be any limits. Limits are for cowards and for losers.

Actually, limits are for anyone in the real world. "No limits" is a slogan fit for a steroid case's workout sweatshirt, but not for American military policy. Adults have to recognize that we do in fact have limits, and that there are some burdens that we're not willing to bear, so there's no point in constantly lying to ourselves about this.

2, Because he thinks Rand Paul is actually shifting the Republican position to Ron Paul's empty-headed hippie baby-talk "Love" bullshit, whereby, as a matter of doctrine, we must never engage anywhere because only consensual agreements are permitted in foreign policy.

I will discuss how that's idiotic another time.

I think McCain is right on this point, and yet wrong. Rand Paul is not moving public opinion on this point or even Republican opinion on this point. Rather, public and Republican opinion on this point has already moved, but is currently being falsified because no one ever wants to admit they're wrong, and Rand Paul is offering people an opportunity to express their real opinion.

And that could wind up working out badly for the hawks, as McCain expects, because people might just be seduced into just doing a 180 on their Idealism -- moving from "we will make any sacrifice to make the world safe for democracy" (a sentiment as noble as it is false) to a new completely-opposite Idealism of pacifism. But in both cases they're as Idealistic and Noble as they can possibly be. So it's an attractive thing.

I actually don't believe in Paulian pacifism and do believe in the need and justification for American intervention on a limited basis and in pursuit of a limited number of objectives.

If McCain also believes that -- and of course he does -- he would be wise to stop making the choice between the Ron Paul doctrinal peacenikism and the McCain Interventions Incorporated model.

Because McCain will lose, and so will the concept of interventionism itself.

Gingrich had it right on this-- he said "I'm a hawk, but I'm a cheap hawk." McCain is an extravagant hawk, and he's the worst spokesman for hawkishness there is. And if he keeps pushing his No Limits doctrine, he's going to find the country is now embracing All Limits.

Let's be smart about this, let's remember that the United States is made up of actual human beings who do in fact have limits, and start thinking about Some Limits. Smart Limits. Realistic Limits. Workable Limits.

The country doesn't exist to exemplify McCain's dubious conceptions of honor. Other things enter into the equation, like the human cost to our boys and civil liberties and even, yes, the filthy considerations of dirty money.

McCain is vaingloriously defending a hill that was lost in 2008, if not 2006. It's time to pick a more defensible hill.

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posted by Ace at 01:04 PM

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