A friend who has long grown used to thinking of me as a "right wing ideologue" regards himself, naturally, as a pragmatic liberal. Yet I believe he is, in fact, more of an ideologue than I am. Often, I have noticed, when a pet theory is slain by an inconvenient fact, he clings to the dead theory, ignoring the living fact.
For example, he continues to believe, with all misguided sincerity, that the way to reduce abortion is more birth control and more sex education. Never mind the occasional dip in the numbers and rates of abortions. Look past the year-to-year statistics and take the long view of decades. The number of abortions soared as liberal judges removed the legal barriers and birth control became more widely available (even with condoms distributed in schools now) and sex education programs proliferating at even the grade school level. Yes, the students’ education on the subject may be deficient. But for every student my friend may quote to me who thinks pregnancy cannot occur from the first incident of intercourse, I would wager there are thousands, if not millions, who “know” they must practice “safe sex,” beginning with the first "encounter." If they have not heard that message by now, they must be, as Yogi Berra might say, “blind.”
But what really brings this thought to mind that my friend prefers the dead theory to the living fact is something he said about soon-to-be Republican presidential nominee, the semi-honorable John McCain. (Yes, he is very much in the tradition of semi-honest Abe.) He said that because he has been through the horrors of war, McCain would be less likely to commit us into another war if he can avoid it.
I agree the inverse may be true: Those "chicken hawks" around Bush who planned our “cakewalk” in Iraq have, for the most part, never heard a round fired “in anger” (i.e. to kill someone in war, rather than Cheney firing at a duck or quail or whatever it was). And I do believe Sen. Clinton would be the biggest hawk we have ever had in the White House. But don’t expect McCain to be a peacekeeper. That theory may be applicable as a general rule, but we should not be blind to the exceptions. McCain is clearly an exception. Eisenhower in the White House was a peacekeeper. MacArthur might have been. But John McCain is no peacekeeper or peace seeker.
I don’t think my friend has been paying attention to what McCain has been saying. McCain boasts that he supported "the surge," seeing the need for more "boots on the ground" in Iraq. During President Clinton’s air war over Bosnia, McCain faulted the president for his unwillingness to put American "boots on the ground" in that war. No one knows for sure just where on earth Sen. McBootsonthebrain does not want American "boots on the ground."
He is willing to have us stay in Iraq 100 years. In fairness, he is not saying the war will last that long, but that we should stay there as we have been in Germany for more than 60 years and in Korea for nearly that long. But his statements about Iran are every bit as jingoistic and provocative as those of the Bush administration. And I am not just referring to his stupid and insensitive response to a question about Iran, by singing (to the tune of “Barbara Ann") “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.” Yes, that was a “joke” — like many of McCain’s jokes, a rather tasteless one and makes one wonder how much McCain has learned from his “experience.” We should trust this guy’s judgment?
My friend doesn’t listen to candidates debates, because “It’s all bulls**t.” If he had listened to the Republican candidates’ “bulls**t” from the ice arena at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH on June 5, he would have heard Sen. McCain and nearly all the other Republicans on stage endorse the idea of a first strike, and specifically (it was explicit in the question) a nuclear first strike against Iran. Only Ron Paul was (pardon the pun) appalled at that prospect, invoking (appropriately enough at that Catholic college) the “Just War” theory proposed by Saint Augustine, and refined and reaffirmed by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Paul served in the Air Force between Korea and Vietnam, but has nowhere near the intimate knowledge of war that McCain has. Yet he was the only genuine peace candidate in the Republican primary field.
Gen. Patton knew war, too. As World War II was winding down, he was itching for a war with Russia, apparently brushing aside the fate of Napoleon and even Hitler, whose example was right before his eyes. I loved the way that was portrayed in the movie, “Patton.” “I’ll have us a war with sons o’ bitches in no time, and I’ll make it look like they started it!”
John McCain personifies the current rise in American militarism. Still, we may be better off if McCain wins. If he is in the White House, the American public may more quickly recognize that imperialism for what it is. With Clinton in the White House, and even more so with Obama, people may be willing to delude themselves into thinking they have elected a “peace” candidate.
As the patriot Patrick Henry, quoting the prophet Jeremiah, said so many years ago, "Men cry u2018Peace!’ Peace!’ but there is no peace." Not when men with John McCain’s appetite for American "boots on the ground" are elevated to lead the most powerful nation the world has ever known.
Manchester, NH, resident Jack Kenny [send him mail] is a freelance writer.