Skip to comments.Hothead McCain (and the ideas coming out of his foreign-policy brain trust)
Posted on 03/08/2008 11:30:21 AM PST by K-oneTexas
Hothead McCain by ROBERT DREYFUSS
If you've followed Senator John McCain at all, you've heard about his tendency to, well, explode. He's erupted at numerous Senate colleagues, including many Republicans, at the slightest provocation. "The thought of his being President sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper, and he worries me," wrote Republican Senator Thad Cochran, shortly before endorsing McCain.
You've heard about his penchant for bellicose rhetoric, whether appropriating a Beach Boys song in threatening to bomb Iran or telling Russian President Vladimir Putin that he doesn't care what he thinks about American plans to install missiles in Eastern Europe.
And you've heard, no doubt, about McCain's stubbornness. "No dissent, no opinion to the contrary, however reasonable, will be entertained," says Larry Wilkerson, a retired army colonel who was former Secretary of State Colin Powell's top aide. "Hardheaded is another way to say it. Arrogant is another way to say it. Hubristic is another way to say it. Too proud for his own good is another way to say it. It's a quality about him that disturbs me."
But what you may not have heard is an extended critique of the kind of Commander in Chief that Captain McCain might be. To combat what he likes to call "the transcendent challenge [of] radical Islamic extremism," McCain is drawing up plans for a new set of global institutions, from a potent covert operations unit to a "League of Democracies" that can bypass the balky United Nations, from an expanded NATO that will bump up against Russian interests in Central Asia and the Caucasus to a revived US unilateralism that will engage in "rogue state rollback" against his version of the "axis of evil." In all, it's a new apparatus designed to carry the "war on terror" deep into the twenty-first century.
"We created a number of institutions in the wake of World War II to deal with the situation," says Randy Scheunemann, McCain's top adviser on foreign policy. "And what Senator McCain wants to begin a dialogue about is, Do we need new structures and new institutions, both internally, in the US government, and externally, to recognize that the situation we face now is very, very different than the one we faced during the cold war?" Joining Scheunemann, a veteran neoconservative strategist and one of the chief architects of the Iraq War, are a panoply of like-minded neocons who've gathered to advise McCain, including Bill Kristol, James Woolsey, Robert Kagan, Max Boot, Gary Schmitt and Maj. Ralph Peters. "There are some who've moved into his camp who scare me," Wilkerson says. "Scare me."
If McCain intends to be a shoot first, ask questions later President, consider a couple of the new institutions he's outlined, which seem designed to facilitate an unencumbered, interventionist foreign policy.
First is an unnamed "new agency patterned after the...Office of Strategic Services," the rambunctious, often out-of-control World War II-era covert-ops team. "A modern day OSS could draw together specialists in unconventional warfare; covert action operators; and experts in anthropology, advertising, and other relevant disciplines," wrote McCain in Foreign Affairs. "Like the original OSS, this would be a small, nimble, can-do organization" that would "fight terrorist subversion [and] take risks." It's clear that McCain wants to set up an agency to conduct paramilitary operations, covert action and psy-ops.
This idea is McCain's response to a longstanding critique of the CIA by neoconservatives such as Richard Perle, who have accused the agency of being "risk averse." Since 2001 the CIA has engaged in a bitter battle with the White House and the Pentagon on issues that include the Iraq War and Iran's nuclear weapons program. The agency lost a major skirmish with the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which put the White House more directly in charge of the intelligence community. And now McCain wants to put the final nail in the CIA's coffin by creating a gung-ho operations force. Scheunemann, who credits Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations with the idea, says the new agency is urgently needed to "meet the threats of the twenty-first century in a time of war, much as the OSS was created in a time of war." And he disparages the CIA as a bunch of has-beens. The new agency would eclipse "an organization created to meet the needs of the cold war and hang out in embassies and try to recruit a major or two or deal with walk-in defectors," Scheunemann told The Nation.
But John McLaughlin, a former deputy director of the CIA who retired in 2004, is more than skeptical, and he worries that McCain doesn't understand the need for Congressional controls over spy agencies. "You need to have Congressional oversight and transparency," he says. "I would not recommend a new agency that is set up parallel to the CIA.... All of those things can be done within the boundaries of the CIA." Told about McLaughlin's comments, Scheunemann says, "Anyone who thinks that the agency today is a nimble, can-do organization has a different view than Senator McCain does."
The UN, too, would be shunted aside to make room for McCain's new League of Democracies. Though the concept is couched in soothing rhetoric, the "league" would provide an alternate way of legitimizing foreign interventions by the United States when the UN Security Council won't authorize force. Five years ago, on the eve of the Iraq War, McCain said bluntly before the European Parliament that if Security Council members resisted the use of force, or if China opposed US action against North Korea, "the United States will do whatever it must to guarantee the security of the American people." Among the targets McCain cites for his plan to short-circuit the UN are Darfur, Burma, Zimbabwe, Serbia, Ukraine and, of course, Iran--and he has already referred to "wackos" in Venezuela. According to Scheunemann, it's an idea that bubbled up from some of McCain's advisers, including Peters and Kagan, but it alarms analysts from the realist-Republican school of foreign policy. "They're talking about a body that essentially would circumvent the UN and would take authority to act in the name of the international community, sometimes using force," says a veteran GOP strategist who knows McCain well and who insisted on anonymity. "Well, it's very easy to predict that the Russians and Chinese would view this as a threat."
McCain seems almost gleeful about provoking Russia. At first blush, you'd think he'd be more nuanced, since many of the foreign policy gurus he says he talks to emanate from the old-school Nixon-Kissinger circle of détente-niks, including Henry Kissinger himself, Lawrence Eagleburger and Brent Scowcroft. Their collective attitude is that as long as Moscow doesn't threaten US interests, we can do business with it. But there is little evidence of their views in McCain's policy toward Putin's Russia. "I think it's fair to assume that he's most influenced by his neoconservative advisers," says the GOP strategist.
"We need a new Western approach to...revanchist Russia," wrote McCain in Foreign Affairs. He says he will expel Russia from the Group of Eight leading industrial states, a flagrant and dangerous insult, one likely to draw stiff opposition from other members of the G-8. He refuses to ease Russian concerns about the deployment of a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, saying, "The first thing I would do is make sure we have a missile defense system in place in Czechoslovakia [sic] and Poland, and I don't care what [Putin's] objections are to it." And he's all for rapid expansion of NATO, to include even the former Soviet republic of Georgia--and not just Georgia but also the rebellious Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Since Kosovo's declaration of independence on February 17, which was opposed by Russia, Moscow has said it intends to support independence of the two Georgian regions, making McCain's goal of expanding NATO provocative, to say the least. "McCain says [NATO] ought to include Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are not under the control of the current Georgian government," says a conservative critic of the Arizona senator. "Which, if not a prescription for war with Russia, is at least a prescription for conflict with Russia."
Earlier in his Congressional career, McCain was reluctant to engage in overseas adventures unless American interests were directly threatened. He opposed US involvement in Lebanon in the early 1980s, and in Haiti and the Balkan conflicts in the early 1990s. But as the post-cold war environment seemed increasingly to promise unchallenged American hegemony, McCain took up the neocons' call for interventionism. His views crystallized in a 1999 speech, when he called for the United States to use tough sanctions and other pressure to roll back "rogue states" like Iraq and North Korea, adding, "We must be prepared to back up these measures with American military force if the existence of such rogue states threatens America's interests and values." In referring to "values," McCain indicates his support for the notion that a selective crusade allegedly on behalf of freedom and democracy can provide a rationale for an aggressive new foreign policy outlook.
"He's the true neocon," says the Brookings Institution's Ivo Daalder, a liberal interventionist who conceived the idea of a League of Democracies with Robert Kagan. "He does believe, in a way that George W. Bush never really did, in the use of power, military power above all, to change the world in America's image. If you thought George Bush was bad when it comes to the use of military force, wait till you see John McCain.... He believes this. His advisers believe this. He's surrounded himself with people who believe it. And I'll take him at his word."
Not surprisingly, the center of McCain's foreign policy is the Middle East. "He's bought into the completely fallacious notion that we're in a global struggle of us-versus-them. He calls it the 'transcendental threat...of extreme Islam," says Daalder. "But it's a silly argument to think that this is either an ideological or a material struggle on a par with [the ones against] Nazi Germany or Soviet Communism." For McCain, the Iraq War, the conflict with Iran, the Arab-Israeli dispute, the war in Afghanistan, the Pakistani crisis and the lack of democracy in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are all rolled up into one "transcendent" ball of wax.
More than any other politician, McCain is identified with the Iraq War. From the mid-1990s on, he and his advisers were staunch supporters of "regime change." Scheunemann helped write the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998, which funded Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress; joined Bill Kristol's Project for the New American Century; and helped create the neoconservative Committee for the Liberation of Iraq in 2002, with White House support. Together with Joe Lieberman, Sam Brownback and a handful of other senators, McCain emerged as a major cheerleader for the war. Like his fellow neocons, McCain touted what proved to be faked intelligence on the threat posed by Iraq. Echoing Vice President Cheney, McCain said on the eve of the war, "There's no doubt in my mind, once [Saddam] is gone, that we will be welcomed as liberators." He pooh-poohed critics who argued that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's war plan was too reliant on technology and too light on troops, saying, "I don't think you're going to have to see the scale of numbers of troops that we saw...back in 1991." When Gen. Eric Shinseki warned, a month before the war started, that occupying Iraq would require far more troops, McCain was mute.
Today McCain portrays himself as a critic of how the war was fought, but his criticism did not emerge until long after it was clear that the United States faced a grueling insurgency. From the fall of 2003 onward, against a growing chorus of critics who called for US forces to withdraw, McCain repeatedly called for more troops to secure "victory." By late 2006, when the bipartisan Iraq Study Group called for pulling out all combat brigades within fifteen months, McCain, Lieberman and a hardy band of neocons, led by Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute and joined by Cheney, persuaded Bush to escalate the war instead. Asked if McCain directly lobbied Bush to reject the ISG's recommendations, a McCain aide says, "There were many encounters with the President's senior advisers and with the President on this issue." Fred Kagan, the surge's author and Robert Kagan's brother, told McClatchy Newspapers, "It was a very lonely time. He went out there for us."
In January McCain famously said US forces might end up staying in Iraq for a hundred years. It's clear that for McCain the occupation is not just about winning the war but about turning Iraq into a regional base for extending US influence throughout the region. According to the original neocon conception of the war, as promoted by people like Perle and Michael Ledeen, Iraq was only a first step in redrawing the Middle East map. Gen. Wesley Clark said recently that on the eve of the war he was shown a Pentagon document that portrayed Iraq as the first in a series of operations to change regimes in Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Lebanon.
When The Nation asked Scheunemann why US forces would have to stay in Iraq so long, he explicitly linked their presence to the entire Middle East. "Iraq might be stable, but what about the region?" he responded. "Other countries could be in turmoil; other countries could be threatening Iraq. It could be an external threat that we need to have troops there for, à la South Korea, à la Japan." He added, "I understand your readers may think it's some sort of malevolent imperialist conspiracy." Conspiracy or not, it's clear that McCain sees our presence in Iraq as a permanent extension of US power in the oil-rich Persian Gulf.
McCain has made no secret of his belief that using force against Iran is the only way to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. "There is only one thing worse than a military solution, and that, my friends, is a nuclear-armed Iran," McCain said. "The regime must understand that they cannot win a showdown with the world." He supports tougher sanctions against Tehran, but critics note that implementing them would require Russia's consent. McCain's provocative anti-Russia stand, though, makes such a deal less than likely. And he rejects direct US-Iran talks.
In the end, McCain seems almost reflexively to favor the use of America's armed might. "He would employ military force to the exclusion of other options," says Larry Korb, a former Reagan Administration defense official. Scion of admirals (his father and grandfather), a combat pilot in Vietnam who continued to believe long after that war that it might have been won if the US military had been allowed free rein, McCain presents the image of a warrior itching for battle. He is the candidate of those Americans whose chief goal is an endless war against radical Islam and who'd like nothing more than for the Arizona senator to clamber figuratively into the cockpit once more. Like his former aide Marshall Wittman, currently a top aide to Senator Lieberman, McCain sees Theodore Roosevelt, the Bull Moose interventionist President of the early twentieth century, as his role model. And that attracts neoconservatives.
"I'm an old-fashioned, Scoop Jackson--I guess you'd now say Joe Lieberman--Democrat, and he's a Teddy Roosevelt Republican, and they're pretty close in their views, so substantively there's a lot of overlap between us," says James Woolsey, a former CIA director who's endorsed McCain and has campaigned with him this year. "I think John's style is very TR-like. It's very much about speaking softly but carrying a big stick."
We're still waiting for the "speaking softly" part. "There's going to be other wars," McCain warns. "I'm sorry to tell you, there's going to be other wars. We will never surrender, but there will be other wars."
McCain is a pussycat compared to Hillary.
If the Rats think “hothead” will bring down McCain they better think again, it will probably give him a 10 point bump if he keeps doing it to the MSM.
The words ‘Hot Head’ takes completely different meaning in Klinton White House. LOL!
Juan McCain what else needs to be said.
If “The Nation” doesn’t like him, then he must be good.
Both John McCain and Hillary Clinton will probably have higher disapproval numbers than approval numbers by November 4, if Hillary is even the final choice for POTUS on the Democratic side. I still see it as being a Barack Obama v.s. John McCain challenge for the WH. These are truly the worst choices for POTUS, ever! I also wish that the GOP could have a “do over” in the race for POTUS.
I’m not a McCain fan, but I’ll take Mr. Hothead or Mr. Smooth-Talking Socialist or Mrs. Power-Hungy Biatch any day.
Has John McCain ever thrown an ashtray in anger?
Does he “loathe” the military?...
I despise McCain, but this article is from The Nation, a liberal rag I also despise.
I guess I will move along. I don’t involve myself in liberal spats.
I have voted R in every election since 1968 (Nixon). I had no enthusiasm in some cases, Ford and GHW Bush. But, I can’t even hold my nose and vote for McCain. The worst nominee in my lifetime. He ranks with the pathetic choice of Kemp for Doles VP. Let the Dems have the White House. We lived through Carter, we can do it again. McCain policies = Hillary policies. Obama is the most pragmatic of the group.
Or do you not even know what kind of rag "The Nation" is?
I happen to like the tune “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran” and frankly think it’s a good idea!
On the other hand, I suppose the left is content to label every emphatic statement McCain makes as a fit of rage. LOL! If he protests they'll just call him uncivil. He has dug this hole himself.
What has happened to FreeRepublic?
Article that generate thought and make the grey matter work are pretty good from any site.
I read to generate ideas. I also find in reading these others sites exactly what the other side is thinking and then I can prepare an answer to it. Living in a place as liberal as Austin Texas, thanks to the transplants from elsewhere, I get an opportunity to throw it back in many a place. You pick their specifics and throw it back ... not haphazardly.
I guess he is trying to win over us conservatives. Go McCain!
Sorry, but for me you've been here long enough to know how to use a "barf alert", or at least to post a comment with the article saying you know that what you are posting is crap, but it's just for educational purposes (or something like that).
Just common courtesy, especially with an article from a lefty rag like this.
I am still a "NONE OF THE ABOVE" voter!
That usually helps one of the greater. I’ve never seen a perfect candidate. It always seems to come down to one being better than the other. I thought Hunter was great if that gives you a clue as to my mindset. Not voting is a differential vote for someone else. I hope you don’t sit it out.
“We must make sure our Brave Military gets the support to Win This WAR. Not another Viet Nam”
Nothing more to be said!!!
Proving once again that there must be a marked difference between Obama & Hillary on one side and McCain on the other, regardless of what some here believe.
I agree with McCain on this -- we are up against an Islamic front that wants to see the West in general the America specifically conquered into submission.
As to Russia...
On the one hand his aggressiveness could cause trouble with the Russians. On the other hand, it worked for Reagan and thus maybe aggressiveness against Russia and China is also needed to counter Putin who is even more confrontational than McCain (as in bomber overflights and threats of targeting with nuclear missiles).
I'm reminded of LBJ's campaign which was saying that if we voted for Goldwater, there would be war. Well, some of us voted for Goldwater and there was war.
Johnson successfully portrayed Goldwater as a 'Warmonger" and someone who would have no problem with pushing the missle button first and asking questions later. It was the scare of nuclear war with Russia that had Goldwater in trouble. It was only a year and a half previous to the election that we almost had a real nuclear war over Cuba.
In early '64, Vietnam was a minor issue and just starting to get legs, so the "warmonger" taint was easily spread over Barry on that concern too. JMO.
He usually directs it at conservatives.
Take the presidency away and the Supreme Court will turn sharply left, the Presidency will be left and the Congress will remain left.
If this were not so, we would be not fighting to hold onto Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Virginia. But it is so and we are in real danger of losing those states. Think to yourself—how many blue states are drifting red? Answer: none. How many red states and purple states are drifting blue. Answer: PA, OH, VA, MO, NV, AZ, NM, TN, and the entire upper Midwest.
So, we need to hold on and McCain is going to be the only voice we have.
Ted Kennedy has placed the nose ring in McNuts long ago.
Yet, this article planted on FR elicits all kinds of comments based on it, without any question at all as to the authenticity of what's presented. It's all so "scholarly", you know, so "inside stuff", therefore everything in it must be true.
I suggest we freepers keep our heads clear and ready for more of this on McCain in the months ahead. I suggest we wait and see what actually comes out of McCain's mouth and official campaign before we go off all hysterical. There's a deep-seated hatred of the GOP nominee-presumptive by a vocal minority here who apparently never sleep. Take what they say and what marxist rags like The Nation say and do your own thinking. Much depends on it.
Remember the freeper poll showed McCain support (holding nose or not) to be around 70%. This means the McCain haters have a lot of work to do on all the various threads. We must remain adept at separating the wheat from the chaff and seek the truth, not being knee-jerk when unfounded propaganda is posted.
[It's also funny (but a new topic from this threat) that many from the Reagan and Bush 41 Administrations are the "Shadow Warriors" (from Kenneth Timmerman's book of the same title) along with Clinton "holdovers" that have tried so hard to derail or re-route the Bush 42 Iraq policy.]
John McCain (frorm Sourcewatch):
McCain is "also being advised on foreign policy by neoconservatives. McCain is supported by Robert Kagan, a noted American Enterprise Institute chickenhawk and the author of the surge policy, and former CIA director Jim Woolsey, who, like [Norman] Podhoretz, has called for a World War against Islam. Leading neocon lobbyist Randy Scheunemann, who headed the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and was on the board of the Project for the New American Century, completes the McCain foreign policy and security team. There are reports that McCain will lose some of his advisers as his campaign is in trouble and that they might gravitate to Romney and Giuliani. McCain also had considerable interaction with neocon elder statesman Richard Perle in the early days of his campaign, but Perle has decided that McCain cannot win the nomination. Perle is deferring judgment on where he should go next. Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard and Henry Kissinger are also reported to be giving McCain advice."
In October 2007, the Washington Post listed the following as McCain's foreign policy advisers.
"Obama's key advisers who speak for him on foreign policy include Gregory Craig, Anthony Lake, and Samantha Power. Craig is a leading Washington lawyer who was a White House special counsel under Bill Clinton and defended the president in his impeachment trial. Lake was also a Bill Clinton adviser who was involved in the Bosnian conflict. Power is an Irish-born Harvard professor from the Kennedy School who is regarded as an expert on Third World issues. None of the three is considered to be particularly partisan on any foreign policy issues but genocide, which Power has written a book about, but Obama is also accelerating his efforts to woo Jewish donors and to improve his standing with AIPAC, which has been suspicious of him because of youthful indiscretions that included expressions of sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians. He recently appointed Eric Lynn as "liaison to Jewish Community and advisor on Middle East issues".
Accompanying Obama when he "outlin[es] his views on the Iraq war in a major speech [September 12, 2007,] in Iowa" will be Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Democratic President Jimmy Carter's "national security advisor, who says that Obama offers 'a new definition of America's role in the world.'"
In October 2007, the Washington Post published a list of Obama's foreign policy advisers.
TheRealNews.com has a report on Obama's foreign policy advisors .
Clinton is "regarded as by far the more conservative candidate in that she has carefully triangulated her potential supporters and is unwilling to say that her vote in the Senate in support of the Iraq war was a mistake. She has also positioned herself with the Israel lobby through her pledge to disarm Iran by whatever means necessary and her threat to use nuclear weapons on terrorists. Her foreign policy advisers are a who's who of neoliberal hawks, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who famously believed that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children due to sanctions was 'worth it.' Clinton is also being advised by Richard Holbrooke, who is reported to be close to Paul Wolfowitz. Holbrooke is a possible candidate for secretary of state if Clinton is elected president. Holbrooke has been a supporter of the Iraq war, and he was an architect of the 1999 bombing of Serbia. Strobe Talbott, who advised Bill Clinton and was also involved with the bombing of Serbia, is reported to be another Hillary adviser," Philip Giraldi wrote August 14, 2007, at Antiwar.com. TheRealNews.com has a report on Hillary Clinton's foreign policy advisors .
In October 2007, the Washington Post published a list of Clinton's foreign policy advisers.