Civil Liberties

Radicals for Interventionism


Fareed Zakaria, an intelligent fellow, lets hyperbole get the best of him in the Washington Post, in a discussion about John McCain's big foreign policy speech last month:

It contained within it the most radical idea put forward by a major candidate for the presidency in 25 years…. [T]hat the United States expel Russia from the G8, the group of advanced industrial countries.

Why is this hyperbole? Because kicking the Russkies out of an international talking club is not remotely as radical or consequential as, say, articulating a doctrine for pre-emptive war across multiple fronts several years before it occurred to George W. Bush.

Zakaria goes on to make a good point and an arguable point, respectively:

We have spent months debating Barack Obama's suggestion that he might, under some circumstances, meet with Iranians and Venezuelans. It is a sign of what is wrong with the foreign-policy debate that this idea is treated as a revolution in U.S. policy while McCain's proposal has barely registered. What McCain has announced is momentous–that the United States should adopt a policy of active exclusion and hostility toward two major global powers. It would reverse a decades-old bipartisan American policy of integrating these two countries into the global order, a policy that began under Richard Nixon (with Beijing) and continued under Ronald Reagan (with Moscow). It is a policy that would alienate many countries in Europe and Asia who would see it as an attempt by Washington to begin a new cold war.

Why, this almost seems like a bracing slap across the kisser of a man who foreign-policy chin-strokers like Zakaria usually adore! Until you read the next paragraph:

I write this with sadness because I greatly admire John McCain, a man of intelligence, honor and enormous personal and political courage. I also agree with much of what else he said in that speech in Los Angeles. But in recent years, McCain has turned into a foreign-policy schizophrenic, alternating between neoconservative posturing and realist common sense. His speech reads like it was written by two very different people, each one given an allotment of a few paragraphs on every topic.

Here's a new experiment for our journalistic pals: Try to write a piece about John McCain as if you didn't greatly admire him, and instead had only to go from his actual words, votes and initiatives. (In a few months, we'll repeat the exercise with Barack Obama.) One probable result: There would be much less of this alleged neoconservative/realist "schizophrenia," since there ain't been much of anything "realist" about McCain's foreign policy in over a decade. (And indeed, Zakaria provides zero evidence of "realism" from McCain's speech.) It's funny; "neocon" has become so debased and misused a term, that I bet there are many people who just find it impossible to believe that it can very accurately apply to someone they actually admire.

My reaction to the first wave of silly reaction to McCain's foreign policy speech here.