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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"The Wars of John McCain"

Jeffrey Goldberg's article in the October, Atlantic Magazine - "The Wars of John McCain" – illuminates John McCain as a military hero first and last. Forget the economy, forget education and health care. When it comes to McCain's passion and deep rooted political will, it's all about war strategy and preserving the country's honor and that of its soldiers. Both McCain's father and grandfather were US Navy Admirals. Candidate McCain wrote a book on the two of them and noted that Kissinger would bring his father to see Nixon periodically because his father was consistently certain that our troops were close to victory. Candidate John McCain III was critical early on of the Bush administration and Rumsfeld in particular for not deploying more troops to Iraq when the occupation became so strained and deadly. The "surge" has been McCain's redemption and his constant refrain - even though there are those who argue that the surge is a small part of the decrease in killings.

Years ago, the psychologist, Erik Erikson wrote psycho-biographies of Martin Luther and Mahatma Gandhi, describing each one's dynamics with his father and how those dynamics revealed themselves in their history-shaping lives. Would it be so much of a stretch to see both the military decisions of George Bush and John McCain III to be colored by their respective father-son "schtuff?" George Bush I was roundly criticized in conservative circles for not finishing off Hussein in Gulf War I, and Admiral McCain II was the loser in a war
he had every confidence of winning with his troops. George II and John III may well be engaged in battles that their fathers left for them to finish.

Add to that, the general sentiment of McCain and his fellow, courageous POW's that US soldiers do not cut and run. It's understandable that they would have a much larger investment in that perspective - as opposed to many soldiers in the field who bore witness - or more - to the horrors wreaked on Vietnamese villages.

Once a military campaign is underway, you don't imagine a McCain indulging in thoughts about whether the war is justified or moral. They are military leaders bound to honor, duty, and victory as that culture demands of its chiefs.

Speaking of McCain's flip flops on a variety of domestic issues, Goldberg writes " policy, or health care, or even off-shore oil drilling are for him all matters of mere politics, and politics calls for ideological plasticity. It is only in the realm of national defense, and of American honor – two notions that for McCain are throroughly entwined – that he becomes truly unbending."

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