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Foreign Policy as Spite

John McCain: "I think it's very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. So apparently has Danny Ortega and several others. I think that people should understand that I will be Hamas's worst nightmare."

As well as being kind of scumbaggy, this way of looking at the world reveals a seriously flawed foreign policy outlook. Consider Saddam Hussein. He's a bad dude. And which American president is his worst nightmare? Well, it's George W. Bush. Thanks to Bush, Saddam got booted from power and killed. Compared to George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Dubya was a disaster for Saddam. But of course Dubya's Iraq policy has also been a disaster for the United States of America, whereas Clinton and Papa Bush ran policies that made us better off. International politics shouldn't be conceived of as some nutty zero-sum race to the bottom where our goal is to make Hamas cry -- the question is who are we trying to help and do we have ways to do it. Probably the worst thing that could happen to Hamas would be for it to be supplanted by some more radical group like al-Qaeda. But that wouldn't help Israel or the United States, any more than getting into a self-destructive conflict with Iran is a good idea just because it might make some bad Iranians suffer.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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