John McCain Knows There’s a War On, But Does He Know Which One?


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This weekend the Times Magazine is running a thorough examination of the shaping of John McCain’s foreign-policy outlook as it was formed over the years. McCain likes to refer to himself as a “realistic idealist” when it comes to intervention overseas, an oxymoronic phrase which tells us pretty much nothing. But Matt Bai tells us a lot, like how McCain does in fact see Iraq as very similar to Vietnam. Not meaning it’s a situation in which “hearts and minds” can be won or it’s a “quagmire,” but that it has been similarly mismanaged in the first few years, and if we stick with the new strategy, as we should have done in Vietnam before popular opinion turned irrevocably against the war, Iraq can be won. Gary Hart had an interesting take on McCain’s perspective in the piece: “Whether he is aware of it or not — and I want to tread carefully here, because I don’t like psychologizing people — I don’t think he can separate those things in his mind. In a way, John is refighting the Vietnam War.” A 71-year-old who is still reliving the Vietnam War in his mind? That’s not scary at all! —Dan Amira

The McCain Doctrines [NYTM]