The McCain Doctrine

>> Saturday, August 16, 2008

David Kirkpatrick’s piece in the NYT delves into the mind of one John S. McCain. The focus is McCain’s foreign policy doctrine. Every president gets one to describe the policy that they enacted for the US during their administration. Some are more famous than others. Some of the more famous include the Truman Doctrine and the Monroe Doctrine with its Roosevelt Corollary. So what would the doctrine of a President McCain look like? Warning: Scary Stuff Ahead!

The piece uses the events of 9/11 to illustrate how McCain would act on the world stage. What is revealed is largely confirmed by McCain’s dealings regarding Georgia in his capacity as Pretend President this week. In response to 9/11 McCain was determined to wage a war of retaliation. He wanted to purge the world of those responsible, or who might have liked, 9/11.

Within hours, Mr. McCain, the Vietnam War hero and famed straight talker of the 2000 Republican primary, had taken on a new role: the leading advocate of taking the American retaliation against Al Qaeda far beyond Afghanistan. In a marathon of television and radio appearances, Mr. McCain recited a short list of other countries said to support terrorism, invariably including Iraq, Iran and Syria.

“There is a system out there or network, and that network is going to have to be attacked,” Mr. McCain said the next morning on ABC News. “It isn’t just Afghanistan,” he added, on MSNBC. “I don’t think if you got bin Laden tomorrow that the threat has disappeared,” he said on CBS, pointing toward other countries in the Middle East.

The McCain Doctrine is clear. Attack, Attack, Attack! When confronted by obstacles, escalate, escalate, and escalate more. Everything can be secured through brute force. Strength lies in action and in intimidation.

He has often said he blamed the Johnson administration’s pause in bombing for prolonging the war, and he credited President Richard M. Nixon’s renewed attacks with securing his release from a North Vietnamese prison. He has made the principle that the exercise of military power sets the bargaining table for international relations a consistent theme of his career ever since, and in his 2002 memoir he wrote that one of his lifelong convictions was “the imperative that American power never retreat in response to an inferior adversary’s provocation.”

McCain lacks subtlety in his action. There is little depth or nuance. When you see him answer questions in forums like that of Pastor Rick Warren you can see how straight forward and simple his answers are. When he thinks something is he tries to defeat it. At all costs. Combine this with his idea of national greatness complex and it is a recipe for a disastrous policy leading from epic conflict to epic conflict. When he advocated “Rogue State Rollback” in the late 90’s he was articulating the policy he holds today.

He argued that disparate regional troublemakers, including Iraq, North Korea and Serbia, bore a common stamp: they were all autocracies. And as such, he contended, they were more likely to export terrorism, spread dangerous weapons, or start ethnic conflicts. In an early outline of what would become his initial response to the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. McCain argued that “swift and sure” retribution against any one of the rogue states was an essential deterrent to any of the others.

McCain is the “Hulk Smash” candidate. He believes that beating people up around the world intimidate others into submitting. McCain’s doctrine is one of dominance and aggression. This is not something we need now. Now after the fiascoes in Iraq and Afghanistan have left us in a terrible position economically, militarily, and diplomatically we need a President who has nuance, finesse and subtlety. The brute force that McCain relies on is not a policy doctrine we can afford.


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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