“The death of John McCain will leave Congress without perhaps its loudest voice in support of the robust internationalism that has defined the country’s security relations since World War II.”
Certainly, the passing of the senator whose life story will dominate the news until he is buried at his alma mater, the Naval Academy, on Sunday, leaves America’s interventionists without their greatest champion.
No one around has the prestige or media following of McCain.
McCain supported the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe and the Baltic, right up to Russia’s border. When Georgia invaded South Ossetia in 2008, and was expelled by the Russian army, McCain roared, “We are all Georgians now!”
He urged intervention. But Bush, his approval rating scraping bottom, had had enough of the neocon crusades for democracy.
He supported sending arms to the Ukrainian army to fight pro-Russian rebels in the Donbass. He backed U.S. support for Saudi intervention in Yemen. And this war, too, proved to be a humanitarian disaster.
John McCain was a war hawk.
While the foreign policy that won the Cold War, containment, was articulated by George Kennan and pursued by presidents from Truman to Bush I, no grand strategy for the post-Cold War era has ever been embraced by a majority of Americans.
Bush I’s “New World Order” was rejected by Ross Perot’s economic patriots and Bill Clinton’s baby boomers who wanted to spend America’s peace dividend from our Cold War victory on America’s homefront.
As for the Bush II crusades for democracy “to end tyranny in our world,” the fruits of that Wilsonian idealism turned into ashes in our mouths.
What are the great goals of U.S. foreign policy? What are the vital interests for which all, or almost all Americans, believe we should fight?
We are bombing and fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, partly John McCain’s legacy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has sent a virtual ultimatum to Iran. We have told North Korea, a nuclear power with the world’s fourth-largest army, either to denuclearize or the U.S. may use its military might to get the job done.
We are challenging Beijing in its claimed territorial waters of the South China Sea. From South Korea to Estonia, we are committed by solemn treaty to go to war if any one of dozens of nations is attacked.
With all these war guarantees, the odds are excellent that one day we are going to be dragged in yet another war that the American people will sour upon soon after it begins.
Where is the American Kennan of the new century?
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