In the Arena

What John McCain Doesn’t Know

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Reuters

Senator McCain made a well-publicized trip to Syria and may have posed with extremist kidnappers.

I don’t blame McCain for this. It’s hard to advance a trip into rebel territory. A few years ago, McCain made a well-publicized walk through a Baghdad market, didn’t get shot at, and pronounced major progress in Iraq afterward. A few weeks later, I made the same walk but actually spoke to the shopkeepers—all of whom were supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shi’ite militia leader.

The point is: We just don’t know these places well enough to go over and draw grand conclusions about policy. In a way, McCain’s trip is a perfect metaphor for the problem of involving ourselves with the Syrian rebels. We may be siding with the greater evil. We may be throwing fuel on a fire that could consume the region. Our track record when it comes to such things is dismal.

It is frustrating to watch Syria unravel, especially for those of us who have great affection for the Syrian people. (Damascus is one of my favorite cities in the region.) It is possible that our involvement might tamp down the slaughter—but far more likely that it will be seen as another neo-colonial intervention that will only make things worse. (Israel, on the other hand, has a direct national interest in making sure that Assad and, especially, Hizballah, don’t receive weapons from Russia or Iran that will change the balance of power in the region.)

We may be heading for a regional Sunni-Shi’a confrontation. It could last a decade or more.  We should be prepared to involve ourselves diplomatically in an aggressive fashion. We should be ready with humanitarian assistance when necessary. But we must be very, very careful–as President Obama has been–about military involvement of any sort.

69 comments
drudown
drudown

Dear Sen. McCain:

Let's cut the personal BS because, at the end of the day, policies either help the People of the United States, or they don't. What anyone thinks of me, you, President Obama, his detractors, people that own guns, people that don't own guns, elected officials, foreign nationals living here, and everything in between is not relevant to the threshold issue. We are debating policies, and you or anyone in the world can step forward and answer the pertinent inquiries expressed herein. For if you have a clearer understanding, I would prefer to be the wiser after hearing it. But I think you are making a grave mistake advocating further military entanglement in the Middle East. I think you are making a grave mistake granting “amnesty” without actually raising the money to pay for the foreseeable costs to support new citizens and actually erect a functional border. So let me place my dispassionate observations on the eyelashes. 

There should be a threshold agreement across partisan lines that a strong, stable, competent and efficient government at the state, federal and municipal level is desirable. A government that provides the basic essentials in order to create more disposable income for the People to consume goods, flourish and be educated. There is no benefit to the People if they pay a reasonably comparable level of taxation and receive substandard education, poor public services and pay much more in Health Care costs because uninsured (e.g., foreign nationals in CA) are making the business of Health Care unduly expensive on account of structural and administrative deficiencies. I make these inferences dispassionately. There is a reason why the United States is literally the "second home" for the entire world. It is the canvas upon which the seeds of the Earth are most widely spread, and the inclusive fitness of the inherent genetic diversity, coupled with the added benefit of so many different cultures, makes it the de facto hub of the World Economy. Any economist will tell you that the reason the stock market is so strong is that it is "the lesser of evils" in terms of investment vehicles. Why does your party want to leave arguably the most precious “asset” of the United Stated unguarded and its regulation underfunded? I see no good in this.

Sounds like you guys are as stuck on “messaging” as you are Benghazi. I see.

So too, is politics a function of "the lesser of two evils". Instead of dispassionately accepting this fundamental fact, you and your ilk choose to focus on irrelevant side shows, personal shortcomings and choose form over substance. Most egregiously, the GOP that I grew up following has seemingly become the "sell out" party. Stated differently, the fundamental ruling charter of the entire GOP (“no new revenue”) is like a knife all blade: it cuts the People's hand when used. 

Tell me, what exactly is "preferable" about a "no new taxes, ever" policy that will foreseeably result in greater wealth inequality, societal decay, less services, less educated population, poorer foreign national services, less parks and recreation, less funds for new stadiums and public venues, less resources after natural disasters, a weaker military, weaker DOD/CIA/FBI and, above all, far less fiscal resources to not only "police" our markets and ensure consumer protections, but also, to literally police our jurisdiction and provide all the relief services that will inevitably ensue with climate change. 

You see, that's the "smoking gun" that my GOP party sold out, i.e., they (literally) contend "it is the greatest hoax in the history of mankind." - Sen. Inhofe. You know, that scares people because, unlike the purported ability of Saddam to launch an imaginary nuclear missile at NYC, NYC will eventually be underwater. My god, even Ron Burgundy knows to think otherwise means you actually are using half your brain. "It's science." 

Gee, a fortified border might come in handy when resources become scarce and, say, world famine ensued. Never mind. Benghazi. “How is it is that we are never going to know what we cannot know if nobody actually has personal knowledge of what we’re asking?” Sounds worse than a snake eating its tail, not Watergate.

I digress, back to this special interest mess.

Here, it's just the suffocating influence of Soft Money. And I would be doing the truth a disservice to allege President Obama's party doesn't feel the weight of special interests. But how can anyone- even you- credibly contend that President Obama's insistence on RAISING REVENUE didn't materially reduce the deficit, strengthen the dollar and dispel the shopworn GOP fiction that even a mild increase on the wealthiest Americans will, what, "kill jobs" and "ruin the economy"? Actually, I see completely different data and can only imagine how vibrant the economy would be if ALL corporate tax loopholes closed. They all get the benefit of selling wares and services in the jurisdiction of the United States. Everybody- even those presently paying no taxes or on welfare- should "pay to play". Unfortunately, in the GOP world, even entertaining a higher tax on anything is "treasonous", though to hastily negate something the People can benefit from seems worse. 

And so your party shall endure the election curse.

PrinceHabibu
PrinceHabibu

What john mccain doesn't know: how to win an election. Boom oh snap. Oh no he didn't. Lol. In all seriousness though, mccain can take a 100 of these trips and wouldn't have made a diffrence.This isn't a battle between rebels and syria as much as it is one between the US and the Russians and so far the russians have not been willing to back off. All these calls for american or NATO airstrikes are absurd if not irresponsible. Keep in mind russia still has an active military naval base in syria. During these potential airstrikes, if even one.russian cat is harmed on this base, or one vessel is scratched, it would be an act of war against the russians, and that is a dark path that no nato nation is even willing to entertain, certainly none that isnt the US since even all of them combined stand no chance against russia without the US. So.until.the russians can be convinced to abandon this.current syrian regime, mccain has much a chance of toppling it as he has of becoming the US president, boom again.

mjshep
mjshep

For a piece titled, "What John McCain Doesn’t Know" this sis far too short an article.  I'm thinking more like at least  five or six hundred pages.

SpikeLee
SpikeLee

"I don’t blame McCain for this."


John McCain is not responsible for the plans, actions, or sayings of John McCain.

sacredh
sacredh

"What John McCain Doesn’t Know"

That he's NOT the president would be high on my list.

destor23
destor23

Much as I want to make fun of McCain here, this is the perfect metaphor to explain the risks of our getting more involved.  Folks who want to "arm the rebels" are having a tough time convincing me they can separate good from bad.

Lexx
Lexx

Good to see that people are catching on, I have been calling McCain a senile bafoon for years. Its not what he knows or doesn't know is what worries me most; it's the electorate in Arizona is what leaves me scratching my head. How does a low achiever like him graduate West Point at all, never mind that it was bottom of his class. And then there's Jan Brewer, another genius elected in Arizona. 

I bet those two had a fling and had Sarah Palin as a child. Certianly would explain a lot huh? lmao

FrankMonroy
FrankMonroy

This is a job for Germany, France and Britain. They all have a history of colonial exploitation of this poor people.

fred.fries6
fred.fries6

Your assessment of this article may be correct, on the other hand I personally would much rather see the U.S. befriend the Syrian people than some other countries I can think of. Maybe we don't always get it right but at least we try.  Would you rather just let Syria go and let countries like Iran and other detrimental countries commandeer and exploit the Syrian situation, because they most certainly will if you let them and it won't be pretty.  Besides Israel isn't about to allow that and for all the right reason.  It is unfortunate that Syria has been let to be destroyed as much as it has.  The Syrian people definitely need outside help, but, that has to be done thoughtfully and totally for the Syrian people and for no other reason.  There is certainly terrorist groups and others around the world who are quite willing to plunder what is left of Syria and turn it into their domain much the same as they tried to do in Afghanistan and some other countries I can think of.

Yes, you can turn the other cheek and ignore the whole thing, but I guarantee that the opposition won't and they will have gained another foothold at the expense of the Syrian people.  I don't believe I has seen this much ethnic cleansing since WWII and whats worse this time is the west is letting it happen, what a shame!   They ought to know better.

TomSorensen
TomSorensen

To bad they didn't take him prisoner that is one thing he has experience with as for keeping his nose out of other people problems he sucks

Sue_N
Sue_N

"What John McCain doesn't know"

Jack?

Gstone
Gstone

Cannibalism, execution of unarmed prisoners, kidnapping and forcing children to behead the enemy. You'd be forgiven for thinking I was describing Assad's oppressive regime, but I am talking about atrocities committed by the leadership group of Syrian Rebels (some well supported by the US). 

swagger
swagger

he's not the president, he is not part of the state department or any department of the administration.  he went to syria on memorial day ignoring his fellow brothers in arms acting if he were an official government official when he is actually a loose cannon trouble maker trying to undermine our real policy.

DanEngland
DanEngland

Its time these silly old white men like McCain and Graham stop putting America's human treasure and economic treasure in harms way for people who essentially hate us. McCain was a POW in a war long before many of those he'd put in harms way was even alive. It's time for that old man to quietly retire to his rocking chair.

pervezbeg
pervezbeg

We have no business there it is their war let them figure out. Result of Iraq and Afghanistan is in front of us.  

TyPollard
TyPollard

Here is my article on what McCain KNOWS.

"                                                                                                                                                  "

gysgt213
gysgt213

"What John McCain Doesn’t Know"

Would stop a team of oxen dead in their tracks.

MoisesIssi
MoisesIssi

What Joe Klein doesn't know.

Joe, if we stay iddle watching this liberation group being butcher by the Assad regime, if they manage to overthrow the government, which may turn out to be highly likely, they will perceive us as enemies for sure and god knows what may that lead in the future. However, you are right in that we can't predict what may happen one way or another. This is why the answer should be based on principles not on what can we get out of the situation. Either way we may get something good or bad and we may never know.

drudown
drudown

That is, until you realize that you are going to have to budge. You can’t point to fires you created and expect people to choose “no services, no regulation, no new anything” and expect to choose that over what helps their families to become more educated.

Just this: the only thing worse than refusing to change and evolve is to run from the truth or deliberately mislead people. I just see a lot of "scare tactics" and "scandal mongering" from the GOP and, incredibly, they have conditioned the People to think the "liberal" Media is actually reporting things like they did before "deregulation" under Reagan killed the Fairness Act. Isn't that the real issue? Money in politics is corrupting the system to the extent that the Chinese are going to just swoop in a cherry pick our Pork Industry because they, and every other Foreign government looking out for its own interests, already bought the GOP and donated with the condition precedent of "deregulation" (don't tell us what to do) and "no new taxes" (you must borrow from us and other lenders). Maybe the People want the government to void transactions that even COULD pose a risk to National Security. Or did you think selling drones to the UAE is a “good idea” for the parent of a US soldier in the Middle East? What you call the “Nanny State” I call a representative Congress. Well, I guess that is a working hypothesis that isn’t working. So maybe the People have to vote you out to see something change.

By most accounts, you are the sell out. You don't want to help our country. Sure, you have your army of bloggers, ready to nip at the People’s heels, even if many are sock puppet, professional bloggers that work for PR companies, hired by lobbyists. You don't think that happens, Senator? Then you're naive. Just like you are to support a party that sold all your jobs and refuses to allow the government to provide any help to bring them back. That's how backwards your priorities are. You literally believe the shady politician selling you snake oil wrapped in some ideological paper (Libertarianism) that they obviously don't apply across the board (privacy rights), just when it suits them. 

So, maybe you and your ilk don't like people questioning why a private citizen would object to a background check before purchasing a military style assault rifle like the one used at Columbine. Oh, I'm sorry, to say "Columbine" might trigger "Michael Moore" just like "climate change" triggers "Al Gore" and then your regurgitated talking points that have zero to do with the threat of crazy people killing kids, much less how our government might enter into a joint venture partnership with China to desalinate water for the rest of the world to keep the World Economy, and the very Earth we share, green and fertile like the Commerce between us. 

Face it. Your "leadership" is just obstruction and "mud slinging". There is nothing in it for the People that you took an oath to serve. Why not improve our own infrastructure? Your idea is to "repay" your campaign contributors to blow up and then rebuild the Middle East, as if, in the end, you aren't "destabilizing" the very region you purport to safeguard. Didn’t the people of Iraq “vote” to expel the US troops?

Don’t Arabs deserve self-determination, even if the result of their own violent maturation process the West is powerless to shape in its own image?

Please stop obstructing taxation and regulation- why unnecessarily push our system to the brink?

From your feigned “outrage” over irrelevant “scandals” that have not financially prejudiced the People…to your special interest groupthink. 

The fiscal prudence is either there (e.g., the competitive pricing of Obamacare), or it is not there (e.g., invading Iraq under false pretenses). The time to “challenge” for the sake of diversion came and went. Try leading for a change.

I respectfully dissent.

"After the event, even the fool is wise." - Viscount Symonds

TyPollard
TyPollard

@destor23 

Separating good from bad is hard for me to do in my own family and who's who changes from day to day.

Gstone
Gstone

@fred.fries6 The West is funding the side that is calling for the ethnic cleansing of Alawite muslims. They are also providing support for factions of the FSA that have been confirmed of the following; cannibalism, execution of unarmed prisoners, kidnapping and subjugating large parts of the country to sharia law. The UN also found it was far more likely the FSA used chemical weapons in Syria than Assad.

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

@swagger I always thought it was against the law for non-presidential citizens to conduct their own foreign policy. No one seems to have mentioned this, though, so perhaps I am in error.

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

@TyPollard what McCain knows -- and you cannot dissuade him otherwise -- is that being a POW has made him an expert in all things military.

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

@gysgt213 Did you mean: "What John McCain Knows" Would stop a team of dead oxen in their tracks...?

Works either way....

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

@MoisesIssi With all due respect, but I think you haven't been seeing and experimenting the involving of your government for a long time. First it was the cold war that made the government allied itself with terrorists and dictators, as in Afghanistan and Iraq. Then the Oil has made very strange bedfellows with some Arabs dictatorships and now getting up in the victory parade of the Arab Spring with Egypt, saw the occasion to eliminate a former friend in Libya, what was done, using the power on NATO and the occasional drone to abet in the murdering of  the head of state of a sovereign country. I still have the image of mrs Clinton jumping with joy when she knew of the assassination of Gadhafi. Now, using this same concept, the Arab Spring, the USA has tried, using any covered method to arm and organized these terrorists and human flesh eaters, to try to overthrow this pesky sliver, the Assad regimen, because is a pain for the Israelis ( Don't forget the Golan Heights) and for the Congress of the USA. Why?  Try to answer that, because if I do it everyone will jump condemning me as ANTISEMITE. Finally, you created the Al Qaedas and not only they PERCEIVE you as enemies, but they keep on killing you as enemies. Will you ever learn from history? 

swagger
swagger

@MoisesIssi we need to stop imposing western christian principles on people who don't want them, don't need them and if they were imposed they couldn't use them.  they want theocracy and sharia law.  they want to kill others who are from different families, clans, tribes, religious or political sects.  we need to stand out of the way of their history.

fred.fries6
fred.fries6

@Gstone @fred.fries6 But of course Assad is a little more indiscriminate in his choice of people to eliminate, that is obvious,  but, there is a lot of ethnic and tribal killings. throughout the middle east and that goes north and south of the middle east also.  I do thank you for your input.

PrinceHabibu
PrinceHabibu

Well im not sure the legal facts but I would imagine he is free to travel anywhere wants and meet with anyone he wants, especial given the fact that the US is in not in a state of war with syria. He is just being grumpy old men about having lost that one election because he is well aware of how powerless he is to do anything about the syrain situation or for that matter any situation.

SaveUrth
SaveUrth

@PerryWhite1 @swagger -- Senators and Members of Congress can go where they please in connection with their work as long as they do not negotiate on behalf of the US government (without consent of the President).  They do a lot of fact-finding tours, etc.  As a co-equal branch of government with the executive, they cannot be constrained from travel by the President.  The Constitution gives Congress authority to oversee all expenditures of funds, execution of laws and the overall functioning of the government, including foreign policy.  So, no, this type of trip is not only legal but it is well within the authority of any member of Congress, as long as he did not negotiate anything on behalf of the United States in contravention of presidential authority.  Can McCain declare war?  Not by himself.  Can he visit a war zone?  Yes.  Can he negotiate for the US?  Not unless he gets the okay from the President.

FrankMonroy
FrankMonroy

@PerryWhite1 @swagger It is a clear violation of the Logan Act but since we abolished the Office of US Attorney General, who will prosecute?

Sue_N
Sue_N

I have no idea about the legality, but it does strike me as arrogant, irresponsible and dangerous. You know, typical McCain. And I can't even begin to imagine how furious Kerry must have been.

MoisesIssi
MoisesIssi

@RamonRoman @MoisesIssi When I was a kid, I used to want to be right all the time. My teacher was the best in the world. My school was the number one, my country the best in the world. Then I grew up and started to have introspective criticism. Israel is in no means a perfect country, nor is the US. And their friendship is far from perfect. But at the end of the day, they can both trust each other to a degree. This is the kind of mental maturity a lot of radicals up there are missing that is driving them to senseless killings, the maturity to look inward and stop blaming the world in a silly childish way. Iran is a country that oppresses its people and that’s a fact. The government is only protecting the few autocrats in power. You should have an introspective analysis of your views and see who are really defending, the power and control of those few idiots holding and using it in a bad way. So don’t be so Quixote. 

SaveUrth
SaveUrth

@RamonRoman @MoisesIssi -- The fighting we are seeing in Syria is an extension of hundreds of years of conflict between the different groups involved.  The US did not cause this problem -- the history of Middle Eastern sectarian and tribal warfare long predates the United States even existing.  Pretty much any side that wins in Syria is going to use whatever force they have to commit genocide. Probably the best thing the US could do is make sure that Syrians with weapons stay in Syria and don't bring their fight to the neighboring countries.  Help refugees but let the fighters do what they are going to do because neither side is worth supporting.  Don't send weapons but send food, medicine and support to neighboring countries with refugee camps.

MoisesIssi
MoisesIssi

@RamonRoman @MoisesIssi Ramon, at some point in time you have to take your head out of the sand and realize that isolation in your own backyard while people are getting killed all over won't make your more secure. The Israelis are a democracy last time I've checked. We support them they give us intelligence and we exchange techologies. I don't think you are an antisemite. I think you are just misguided and shortsided. Best regards.

MoisesIssi
MoisesIssi

@swagger @MoisesIssi Look I totally agree with you. Here is the problem. This fanaticals aren't going to stop just because we don't get involved in their affairs. They will continue coming till they convert us all. If you are under the illusion that staying off their way will prevent them from attacking us, you need to look no further than the last attack in Boston perpetrated by the Chechens. We never got involved with them. Yet they come here and attack us anyways. This is one of thoes situations where the only course of action is to show muscle, unfortunately. Show weakness and they'll keep on coming till we convert.

FrankMonroy
FrankMonroy

@Gstone @fred.fries6  Yes, but we would rather destroy another country rather that let the people live in relative peace under a tyrant. Who in hell do we think we are?

Gstone
Gstone

@fred.fries6 @Gstone I wont disagree with you there, ethnic tensions are the regions biggest problem. Sometimes it is the hard handed dictator that keeps a lid on the majority of violence. Saddam was arguably the only person that could keep Sunni and Shiite muslim tensions in reasonable control. It's an imperfect system.

SaveUrth
SaveUrth

@FrankMonroy @PerryWhite1 @swagger -- Contrary to what FrankMonroy says, this visit is not a "clear violation of the Logan Act".  The Logan Act would hardly apply to a Senator visiting another country in his official capacity as a Senator in connection with his legislative and oversight duties.  If an AG went after a Senator for making such a trip, we'd be looking at an interesting constitutional crisis in the making.  

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

@MoisesIssi @RamonRoman The concept and the reality of democracy, as in the case of Israel, can not be used as an excuse to commit atrocities and to interfere with bombardments in the sovereign matters of another country. With friends as Israel the USA  needs no enemies. The history of distortion of friendship by the Israel entity is long and well documented. In 1948 the Israelis killed without provocation more than 15 US sailors of the USS LIBERTY. Remember mr Pollard? He was an officer in the Naval Intelligence of the USA NAVY, but at the same time was an spy for the Israel government. He is still in prison and the Israelis have tried unsuccessfully to free him from an American prison. Now, the Israeli government together with the American Congress, against the majority of the American People, want to declare war to Iran. Am I misguided? Am I shortsided or whatever you tried to imply? Be real!

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

@MoisesIssi @RamonRoman @swagger I wrote it and I repeat it, that was my final words written to you. Nobody, but nobody is going to crumble a wall with facts and you are more than a wall, you are .......

MoisesIssi
MoisesIssi

@RamonRoman @MoisesIssi @swagger Look. I am not necessarily so clear in the idea that we should interfer in what is going on in Syria. But I have to tell you that it seriously bothers me innocent people being butcher. Remember, my dislike is for Assad, not for the Syrian people at large.

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

@MoisesIssi @swagger This is the last comment that I write about your so clear and analytical comments. Read, please, what you wrote. You take for granted that these fanatics and human flesh eaters are going to win. You see, at the end of your comment you write that the only course of action is to show muscle and not weakness. Unless you are totally insane, I imagine that your are talking about Assad and not about the Islamist extremists and fanatics. The government of Assad is a SECULAR ONE where all religions cohabit in peace. Well Assad is showing muscle in spite of your misguided analysis. The Syrian government has never tried to convert the American People, nor has tried to invade or kill Americans. But you in another comments has claimed that you and the American people cannot contemplate how these poor fanatics are being murdered. Can you please define what is your position, are you with the fanatics that want to kill American or with the government that wants to eliminate these fanatics? Finally, what do you think would be the response of the American Government if the Tea Party people and the NRA rise in arms against your government? Don't forget that they have often proclaimed that Obama is a tyrant. Go to your history and you will find an answer. Remember during the Viet Nam war, how the government responded against the university students using the National Guard?