On Hating War

To echo Ezra Klein's point, nothing about the fact that John McCain (allegedly) "hates war" should blind us to the fact that McCain loves advocating for the initiation of wars. McCain has a healthy understanding of what war means -- healthier than my own or than George W. Bush's -- but also a radically unsound understanding of how international relations works. To most people, war is horrible but sometimes necessary. To McCain, war is horrible but frequently necessary. We do ourselves a disservice if we focus on McCain's understanding of the horror of war to the exclusion of his belief in its frequent necessity. This was all well summed up by McCain in March of 1999:

A firmer response to North Korea might have triggered a war, a war we would win, but not without paying a terrible price. Moreover, refusing to help ease the deprivations in the North, and hastening the collapse of the regime might have also resulted in war as the North's last desperate measure, or at least a very messy re-unification with the South. Instead, we have sustained North Korea long enough for it to develop missiles that might be capable of striking the United States, and allowed it to proceed with its program to develop nuclear warheads. North Korea is still inexorably nearing total collapse, and its leaders remain quite capable of launching in their country's death throes one final, glorious war. But now, they are much, much -- better armed.

His view was that Bill Clinton should have started a war with North Korea in 1994. Not because he doesn't hate war ("not without paying a terrible price") but because in his view, war with North Korea was inevitable so better sooner than later. Five additional years of non-war didn't change his mind. Indeed, in January of 2003 he was accusing George W. Bush of being too soft on Pyongyang. And there's every reason to believe that five years after that he still believes what he believed in 1994 -- namely that we should engage in brinksmanship and quite possibly war with North Korea not reluctantly, but at the soonest possible opportunity.

But he hates war. Which is nice.