McCain then and Now

In 2008 Presidential Elections, Foreign Affairs, Iraq War, politics on June 10, 2008 by Editor Z

Evidently Senator John McCain (R-AZ)’s “stay the course” rhetoric has not always been his philosophy. Once upon a time, McCain wrote, regarding the Vietnam War that ” it was morally wrong and outrageous that soldiers should continue to be committed to a cause that the vast majority of Americans don’t support and that our national leaders either underestimated or were overly optimistic in the price that would have to be borne to fight and prevail in such a war.

But that was before 9/11 (after all that did change everything) or I should say until he became the Republican presidential nominee and thus an apologist for the Bush/Cheney administration, and thus has strived to paper over the sins of his party’s disastrous and immensely unpopular president. But that has all changed (in other words the straight talk express is off the road, after being jacked and then stripped of its parts).

McCain, as a Vietnam veteran who honored his country by fighting in that war and enduring hell for years in captivity, wrote many years ago a foreword to the classic David Halberstam book “The Best and the Brightest” which chronicled the U.S history in the involvement leading up to the Vietnam war and the figures in the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations that led the United States into that conflict. Anyway this is a sample that has been circulating on a few blogs of what McCain wrote. Remember this is McCain, not those who now call for an orderly withdrawal from Iraq. Here is what he wrote:

It was a shameful thing to ask men to suffer and die, to persevere through God-awful afflictions and heartache, to endure the de-humanizing experiences that are unavoidable in combat for a cause that the country wouldn’t support over time and that our leaders so wrongly believed could be achieved at a smaller cost than our enemy was prepared to make us pay. No other national endeavor requires as much unshakable resolve as war. If the nation and the government lack that resolve, it is criminal to expect men in the field to carry it alone.

Very eloquent and is exactly the right logic that should be applied today as it should have been applied forty years ago. McCain reasserted what he would today call “retreat” in the early 90s, under President Bill Clinton when McCain called for the withdrawal of American forces from Haiti.

Now contrast the above with McCain’s view on Iraq today, as articulated on his campaign website.

It would be a grave mistake to leave [Iraq] before Al-Queda is defeated and before a competent trained, and capable Iraqi security force is in place and operating effectively. We must help the government of Iraq battle those who provoke sectarian tensions and promote a civil war that could destabilize the Middle East. Iraq must not become a failed state, a haven for terrorists, or a pawn of Iran. These likely consequences of America’s failure in Iraq almost certainly would either requires us to return or draw us into a wider and costlier war.

MY TAKE: In my view, the Iraq war certainly comports more with the view McCain articulated of the Vietnam War than with the scenario he articulates on his campaign website. In the later he sounds like those Presidents and theorists who espoused the ‘Domino theory’ or later ‘the doctrine of credibility’ who claimed that if we left Vietnam, nations across the Asian continent would fall to China and make a communist victory in the cold war more likely, and that if we didn’t stop them over there in the words of President Lyndon Johnson: ” If we quit Vietnam tommarow we’ll be fighting them in Hawaii, and next week we will have to fight in San Fransisco.”

Lets examine the criteria McCains set out in his foreward to ‘The Best and the Brightest’.

> “God awful affliction and heartache” (this is obviously present as it is in every other war and has continued to be present for the last five years. High numbers of U.S casualties, scarce International support, and the carnage that comes with war, as well as high suicide rates.

> “Cause the country wouldn’t support” (lack of a solid and clear rationale, and public approval has eroded dramatically).

> “Leaders wrongly believed” (rosy scenarios, Iraqi oil would pay for financial cost of the war, false intelligence, and a lack of knowledge about Middle Eastern culture).

> “Nation, and government lack resolve” (war consistently unpopular for at least the past three years, shifting rationales).

> Troops bare the burden alone (tax cuts, poor veterans health issues).

So my question is how is this not like the scenario McCain laid out in his introduction to “The Best and the Brightest”?


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