The Honor of McCain

Fred Kaplan gets in many good licks against John McCain, but I take issue with this characterization at the end:

Two and a half years ago, John McCain swallowed his pride and hitched his ambitions to two stars—George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. Both have since imploded. And so, as his campaign faces the purple dusk of twilight time, the man who might once have been an honorable president slips and slides on the stardust.

I think there's oftentimes a tendency to discount the possibility of sincere disagreement in politics. As in assuming that McCain's fantastically stupid views on national security policy represent some kind of grubby and dishonorable act of political expediency. For quite a number of years, however, dating back to the late 1990s at least, McCain has been a consistent apostle of the Bill Kristol school of foreign policy -- all problems should be solved through force, and all problems with the use of force should be solved through the application of more force. McCain showed political courage and broke with his party to support the use of force in Kosovo. When that war appeared not to be working, he started slamming Bill Clinton for using insufficient force. He argued before and after 9/11 for regime change in Baghdad. He ran in 2000 on a platform of "rogue state rollback." He backed the Iraq War and when it started going poorly fearlessly criticized the Bush administration's handling of the war, calling for the deployment of more troops and the use of more force. Eventually, Bush came around to McCain's point of view.

This is just his view. McCain, like Kristol, or Joe Lieberman and various other people is a kind of anti-pacifist. Somebody who supports war as the solution to anything, and believes that any war can be successfully prosecuted if only it's prosecuted more vigorously. The difference is that people don't take pacifists seriously when they start arguing about specific cases, whereas people who believe the country should be launching dozens of wars at all times are given PBS specials, Washington Post columns, spots as TV commentators, Time columns, etc., etc., etc.