Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What I Liked About McCain's Speech Today

And what I didn't like.

Senator John McCain addressed the Los Angeles World Affairs Council today (26-Mar-08). His address was not open to the public. What I saw of his delivery on C-SPAN demonstrated that he was heavily dependent on reading from the teleprompter, but did well considering his age. What follows are my excerpts drawn from the prepared text of his remarks.

Early on, McCain pointedly put Bush in his place:
I detest war. It might not be the worst thing to befall human beings, but it is wretched beyond all description. When nations seek to resolve their differences by force of arms, a million tragedies ensue. The lives of a nation's finest patriots are sacrificed. Innocent people suffer and die. Commerce is disrupted; economies are damaged; strategic interests shielded by years of patient statecraft are endangered as the exigencies of war and diplomacy conflict. Not the valor with which it is fought nor the nobility of the cause it serves, can glorify war. Whatever gains are secured, it is loss the veteran remembers most keenly. Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes the merciless reality of war.
That seemed to have been a response to this Bush's lame attempt to serve as cheerleader for our beleaguered troops in the Afghanistan theater: In McCain's address there was some evidence of some new thinking on foreign policy in McCain's camp.
To meet this challenge requires understanding the world we live in, and the central role the United States must play in shaping it for the future. The United States must lead in the 21st century, just as in Truman's day. But leadership today means something different than it did in the years after World War II, when Europe and the other democracies were still recovering from the devastation of war and the United States was the only democratic superpower. Today we are not alone. There is the powerful collective voice of the European Union, and there are the great nations of India and Japan, Australia and Brazil, South Korea and South Africa, Turkey and Israel, to name just a few of the leading democracies. There are also the increasingly powerful nations of China and Russia that wield great influence in the international system.

In such a world, where power of all kinds is more widely and evenly distributed, the United States cannot lead by virtue of its power alone. We must be strong politically, economically, and militarily. But we must also lead by attracting others to our cause, by demonstrating once again the virtues of freedom and democracy, by defending the rules of international civilized society and by creating the new international institutions necessary to advance the peace and freedoms we cherish.
But that really doesn't constitute new thinking for the rest of us, does it? It's more like traditional thinking before the blot of Busheney's apostasy brought our nation to its knees. There's more in this remedial line:
At the heart of this new compact must be mutual respect and trust. Recall the words of our founders in the Declaration of Independence, that we pay "decent respect to the opinions of mankind." Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed. We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies. When we believe international action is necessary, whether military, economic, or diplomatic, we will try to persuade our friends that we are right. But we, in return, must be willing to be persuaded by them.
McCain touched on torture and evoked an impatient but robust applause before he finished saying,
... We can't torture or treat inhumanely suspected terrorists we have captured. I believe we should close Guantanamo and work with our allies to forge a new international understanding on the disposition of dangerous detainees under our control ...
McCain on global warming:
We need a successor to the Kyoto Treaty, a cap-and-trade system that delivers the necessary environmental impact in an economically responsible manner. We Americans must lead by example and encourage the participation of the rest of the world, including most importantly, the developing economic powerhouses of China and India.
Some of McCain's 'fresh thinking' did not go far enough for me. To be fair, I'm not sure any candidate can afford to question this statement this year:
We also need to build the international structures for a durable peace in which the radical extremists are gradually eclipsed by the more powerful forces of freedom and tolerance. Our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are critical in this respect and cannot be viewed in isolation from our broader strategy. In the troubled and often dangerous region they occupy, these two nations can either be sources of extremism and instability or they can in time become pillars of stability, tolerance, and democracy ..... Iraq and Afghanistan lie at the heart of that region. And whether they eventually become stable democracies themselves, or are allowed to sink back into chaos and extremism, will determine not only the fate of that critical part of the world, but our fate, as well...
But I think the next POTUS will have to begin to question this proposition in 2009. I mean, such is the amount of American military and economic assets that have been squandered in Iraq, I'm not sure the Afghanistan mission, mandated since 11-Sep-01, is affordable or even achievable any longer.

Which really brings me to the nub of my reaction to McCain's great epistle today. There's not a word, of course, addressing his part as a cheerleader in the most ruinous, calamitous, hydra-headed disaster in the history American foreign policy. In the un-provoked, unnecessary, unilateral and deceitful invasion of Iraq, McCain was in on the ground floor. He voted for it and argued for it. McCain swallowed the same Kool-Aid dished out by Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz, regurgitated it, and spewed it out in turn. He's still spewing it out. He's willing to keep our forces in Iraq until the last dog dies.

Out of all of this unfathomable tragedy brought down upon the unfortunate Iraqis in our nation's name, the one astounding thing which confounds me every day is this: how can any Democrat or Republican, who signed on to this egregiously erroneous project, possibly run for President of the United States? How can any politician who championed such a mistake in 2003, not start off each speech in 2008 without apologizing to the world, to Iraqis, and to Americans for playing his or her part in such a blunder?

To all these presidential poseurs I want to paraphrase Special Counsel Joseph N. Welch:

Let us not assassinate truth any further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?