Tuesday, March 07, 2017

War Hawks in the Trump Era: John McCain vs. Donald Trump

Senator John McCain is the godfather of interventionism in American politics, and his zeal for neo-conservative military solutions has not slowed down even after his arch nemesis Trump came out victorious on election day 2016.   This ideological proxy war between McCain and Trump over America's role in world security has illustrated a ferocious battle within the Republican Party, and by extension the entire political/governmental system. 

McCain has been called a war monger by myriad of political figures, including President Trump, former President Jimmy Carter, and Sen. Rand Paul.  Mother Jones magazine wrote a piece documenting all the states that McCain has mentioned sending troops into at one point in time or another, with the grand total coming to 14 different countries.  Throughout his near 40 year career in Congress, he has mentioned Iraq, Iran, Syria, Georgia, Afghanistan, Libya, Kosovo, Nigeria, Bosnia, North Korea, Russia, Sudan, Mali, and China as countries where the conflicts could be solved by some type of U.S. involvement. 

Since the Iraq War, it seems clear that the American public has no wish to stomach any more military intervention, that includes conservatives.  McCain is steadfast in his belief that strength will lead to peace and security, and refers to any dissent as "dangerous isolationism."  George Will refers to McCain's frequent labeling of disagreement as isolationist as a "flight from thinking."  Will also characterizes McCain worldview as such; "Under the McCain Doctrine, America’s military would have just begun to fight, and would never stop." It is not simply the conservative intelligentsia who are concerned with McCain's military strategy, liberal writer Michael Tomasky of The Daily Beast wrote in 2014 that McCain's approach to Ukraine was not only foolish, but that is could lead to a new Cold War.


This brings us to the issues germane to the present administration.  Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Robin to McCain's war mongering Batman, has joined McCain in calling for an investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election.  Even Trump's detractors notice that this might be used as an excuse by these two senators to justify an armed conflict with Russia.  McCain's proposal to incorporate Georgia into NATO, an action that would undoubtedly poke the Russian bear, is a pattern of antagonism that makes some wonder if McCain is salivating for war with Putin.  NATO's Article 5: an attack on any NATO country will be taken as an attack on all.  Tomasky poses the question, could that be exactly what the "bombs away caucus" wants?

The current disagreement between McCain and Trump took shape in June 2015,  when Trump said that McCain was not a true war hero.  Doing damage control later, Trump spoke of how McCain's status as a veteran is sometimes used to shield him from debate and criticism on the topics of military and foreign policy.  Trump tweeted several weeks ago that the Senate duo are "always looking to start WWIII."   At the moment, it seems like Trump's more Pat Buchanan-like approach to the military is winning out, at least politically.  With McCain's war hawk protege, former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, losing reelection in New Hampshire last November, the evidence suggests that interventionism is ballot box poison.  A six-term incumbent like McCain might be grandfathered in from the political winds of change, but others will have to answer for their advocacy of endless war. 

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