August 26, 2008—In judging the shape of a future John McCain presidency, there are already plenty of dots that are easy to connect. They reveal an image of a war-like Empire so full of hubris that it could take the world into a cascade of crises, while extinguishing what is left of the noble American Republic.
McCain has made clear he would continue and even escalate George W. Bush’s open-ended global war on Islamic radicals. McCain buys into the neoconservative vision of expending U.S. treasure and troops to kill as many Muslim militants as possible.
McCain’s tough talk – for instance, his joking about “bomb, bomb Iran” and his vow to pursue Osama bin Laden “to the gates of hell” – is indistinguishable from Bush’s “bring ‘em on,” “smoke ‘em out,” “dead or alive” rhetoric.
Beyond the words, McCain’s global war strategy is as hawkish, if not more so, than Bush’s. In late 2001 and early 2002, McCain took the lead in pushing the neocon plan of a rapid pivot from the invasion of Afghanistan toward the prospective invasion of Iraq.
Even before the Taliban had been thoroughly defeated – and as the Bush administration was failing to chase bin Laden to the gates of Tora Bora or to the gates of northwest Pakistan – McCain was advocating a diversion of U.S. intelligence and military assets toward Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with 9/11.
That premature pivot from Afghanistan to Iraq may go down as one of the worst national security blunders in the history of the United States. It has bogged the U.S. military down in two indefinite wars while fueling anti-Americanism around the world and especially among the billion-plus Muslims.
Yet, McCain and his neocon allies have never acknowledged this serious error of judgment, nor has the mainstream U.S. news media demanded that McCain accept responsibility for this catastrophic mistake.
McCain instead gets away with boasting about the supposed success of the recent U.S. troop “surge” in Iraq. (Meanwhile, Big Media stars – many of whom backed the Iraq invasion in 2003 – hammer Barack Obama for refusing to accept the conventional wisdom about the “successful surge,” as Obama tries to offer a more nuanced analysis.)
So, as the U.S. press corps again gives cover to the Iraq War, the larger failure of U.S. policy goes substantially unaddressed.
Not only did the McCain/Bush/neocon strategy allow bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders to survive and reestablish themselves along the Pakistani-Afghan border, the policy let the Taliban exploit instability in Afghanistan to rebuild its forces and begin going on the offensive against hard-pressed U.S. and NATO troops.
Potentially even worse, the Bush-McCain-neocon neglect of Aghanistan has contributed to worsening instability in nuclear-armed Pakistan, where the Taliban and al-Qaeda are expanding safe havens and increasing influence.
In other words, while Bush and McCain rushed off to war against Iraq over the distant possibility that Iraq might some day have the capacity to build a nuclear bomb, they allowed disorder to spread in Pakistan, a country that already possesses nuclear weapons.
Another casualty of McCain’s endless Middle East wars, which soon could include Iran, would almost surely be America’s volunteer army. Though McCain officially opposes a restoration of the draft, it is nearly impossible to envision how his multiple wars could be waged without one.
And McCain also had made clear that he favors a neo-Cold War confrontation with Moscow over another part of the neocon agenda – the encircling of Russia with pro-U.S. regimes and the placement of strategic missile systems near Russia’s borders.
The fencing in of Russia fits with the goals of the neocon Project for the New American Century that envisions an endless era of U.S. military dominance that tolerates no potential rivals, whether an emerging China or a resurgent Russia. The recent Russian-Georgian conflict underscores the risks from this neocon concept.
Containing Russia in this way ultimately would require dangerous brinkmanship. And the McCain/neocon belligerence – like McCain’s melodramatic declaration “we are all Georgians” – would guarantee that one of these swaggering showdowns eventually would push the world to the brink of a nuclear confrontation.
From the perspective of U.S. taxpayers, the neocon strategy of permanent global dominance means funding the military-industrial complex at levels never before seen, especially when one factors in the simultaneous costs of the “war on terror,” the Iraq War, the Afghan War and a possible Iran War.
The combined price tag for McCain’s military adventures, at a time when the federal government is already running about half a trillion dollars in debt, would mean that virtually every other national priority would have to be short-changed or neglected.
There will be little money left to address the energy crisis, global warming, retooling the auto industry, health care, Social Security, education, infrastructure repairs, etc., etc.
Plus, as the United States solidifies itself under President McCain as a militaristic Empire, the remnants of the old Republic would inevitably be swept away.
Already, McCain has vowed to appoint more U.S. Supreme Court justices in the style of Samuel Alito and John Roberts, open advocates of an imperial presidency.
Currently, the Supreme Court has a slim 5-4 majority in favor of maintaining some limits on the President’s power. But one more vacancy from the moderate majority – to be filled by President McCain – would mean that a right-wing Supreme Court would begin reinterpreting the U.S. Constitution to grant the President unlimited powers in wartime.
And since wartime would never end, the Founders’ vision of a Republic – with “checks and balances” and all people possessing “unalienable rights” – would be negated by an all-powerful President who could do whatever he wished to anyone who got in the way.
In many ways, a McCain presidency would represent the logical culmination of America’s failure to heed President Dwight Eisenhower’s parting warning about the growing power of “the military-industrial complex.”
The American people also would show that they had turned their back on another warning from another aging leader, Benjamin Franklin, who cautioned at the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 that the Founders had created a Republic, “if you can keep it.”
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This story was published on August 27, 2008.