War is Fun

I’ve seen this piece come up a couple of times in the last few days (once referenced by Matt, another over at TAPPED), and so I thought I’d thought I’d highlight it here, and draw the obvious conclusion.

Perhaps most disturbingly of all, McCain appears to be grounded not only in dangerous ideas about international relations but also in an active hostility to prudence. In David Brooks’ 1999 McCain-lauding essay, “Politics and Patriotism: From Teddy Roosevelt to John McCain,” Brooks writes that McCain and others worry “that we have become a nation obsessed with risk avoidance and safety.” The cure? To follow Roosevelt who “saw foreign-policy activism and patriotism as remedies for cultural threats he perceived at home.” De-euphemized, Roosevelt saw war as a positive good; in his years as New York City Police Commissioner he yearned for a now-obscure 1895 border dispute between Venezuela and the British colony of Guiana to turn into a great power conflict. “Let the fight come if it must,” Roosevelt wrote to Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge. “I don’t care whether our sea-coast cities are bombarded or not; we would take Canada … the clamor of the peace faction has convinced me that this country needs a war.” Only three months later Roosevelt mused that “it is very difficult for me not to wish a war with Spain, for such a war would result at once in getting a proper Navy.” The indifference to questions of national strategy here is a bit frightening, but to Brooks’ way of thinking, it’s a small price to pay to combat cultural threats at home.

To sum it up, John McCain likes war. He likes it so much he wants it wherever he can get it. And absent full blown war, he can perhaps bring himself to settle for insanely hardline, militarist rhetoric. So whereas most people might have been keen to deal with “rogue states” in a mold of containment somewhat akin to what we used, successfully to my mind, against the Soviet Union and the larger Communist sphere for 40 years or so, McCain was an early and ardent supporter of rollback, along with his pal Joe Lieberman coincidentally. And while more people than that probably think it’s wisest to deal constructively with other great powers, like Russia, in handling global problems that affect us all and from whom cooperation is essential, John McCain thinks it’s best to make bombastic threats against them, even if he has no way of really following through on them.

So when John McCain says “bomb bomb Iran,” or some other utterance of seemingly politically motivated, jingoist rhetoric, don’t fall for the pleasent explanation. Instead, remember that McCain has come down on the most hawkish side of pretty much every global situation since the end of the Cold War, remember that he has a penchant for needless, confrontational rhetoric with great power states, and simply take him at his word. Unless he says he doesn’t like war, in which case he’s lying to your face.