Beyond "Knowledge"

Fred Kaplan has a good column trying to move beyond John McCain's many gaffes and get at the point that despite his war hero background, his ideas about foreign policy are terrible. I do, however, think it's a bit unfortunate that the piece has been titled "How Much Does John McCain Really Know About Foreign Policy?"

In general, I think it's a mistake to construe the foreign policy issue as one primarily centered on attributes like knowledge, experience, competence, credentials, etc. That kind of thing implies that everyone more-or-less agrees on what our foreign policy should be like, but different figures have different qualifications to run the operation. That's a nice idea, but it's not true. The problem with McCain isn't with any particular gaps in his knowledge base (though those seem to be there) it's that his militaristic vision of America's role in the world is likely to launch a new round of great power conflict in a way that makes it impossible to address terrorism, nuclear proliferation, climate change, etc. in a reasonable manner.