On Monday night, Senator John McCainJohn Sidney McCain20 years after 9/11, US foreign policy still struggles for balance What the chaos in Afghanistan can remind us about the importance of protecting democracy at home 'The View' plans series of conservative women as temporary McCain replacements MORE (R-Ariz.) gave a speech critiquing the foreign policy of President Donald Trump. The speech by McCain, who appears hell bent on following the Arlen Specter scorched-earth approach to his final act in politics, was lauded by Trump’s critics.
In his speech, McCain said:
“To refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”
Senator McCain is a patriotic American who should be thanked for his military service, but it is an understatement to say that McCain is indeed a strange choice to be the voice of the resistance when it comes to issues relating to foreign policy. Senator McCain’s own vision of American foreign policy, the neoconservatism of George W. Bush and Bill Kristol, was a complete and total unmitigated disaster for America — and indeed the world.
John McCain was a champion of the disastrous war in Iraq, a war built on lies about the existence of weapons of mass destruction, a war that saw the loss of almost 4,500 American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and cost the U.S. more than $1 trillion.
The war in Iraq that McCain championed not only costs lives and treasure, it left the Middle East an even more dangerous place. Indeed, then-candidate Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaOur remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Chelsea Manning tests positive for COVID-19 MORE — in his 2008 race against McCain, levelled a devastating critique of the Senator’s support for the war in Iraq, pointing out:
"Two of the biggest beneficiaries of that decision were al-Qaida's leadership, which no longer faced the pressure of America's focused attention; and Iran, which has advanced its nuclear program, continued its support for terror, and increased its influence in Iraq and the region."
McCain was not just a cheerleader for the war in Iraq, McCain has championed a dangerous American military adventurism around the globe. In 2013, Mother Jones published a list of all of the countries where Senator McCain has advocated for military intervention. It includes: Bosnia, Kosovo, Russia, Georgia, China, North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria and Mali.
Americans are tired of endless war in far flung corners of the globe with no discernible American interest and the American people affirmatively rejected this foreign policy approach when Senator McCain lost in a landslide in the 2008 presidential election.
Yet now, John McCain has the gall to attack those who stand for a simple guiding principle when it comes to determining how and when to risk American lives and taxpayers dollars: Put America’s interests first.
Only in Orwell’s America could the charge leveled by Senator McCain that those who advocate for a foreign policy that seeks to advance American interests and protect American lives somehow be considered “unpatriotic.”
President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE’s foreign policy isn’t “isolationism” and it doesn’t represent an abdication of America’s responsibility. President Trump’s foreign policy recognizes that first and foremost the role of the president is to put the interests of Americans first, just as the primary responsibility of every head of state is to do the same for the people of his or her country. Trump laid out this common sense approach in his speech before the United Nations:
“In foreign affairs, we are renewing this founding principle of sovereignty. Our government's first duty is to its people, to our citizens — to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values.
“As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.”
The John McCains of the world would have you believe that you America has two choices: retreat from the world stage or engage in endless military adventurism around the globe. They are wrong and President Trump has set out to find that middle ground — as he made crystal clear earlier this year:
“The United States will forever be a great friend to the world, and especially to its allies. But we can no longer be taken advantage of, or enter into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return. As long as I hold this office, I will defend America’s interests above all else.
“But in fulfilling our obligations to our own nations, we also realize that it’s in everyone’s interest to seek a future where all nations can be sovereign, prosperous, and secure.”
Senator McCain is entitled to his own opinions when it comes to foreign policy, but he isn’t entitled to his own set of facts. We have tried John McCain’s way and it came at disastrous cost to America and the world. It is time we try a new way forward.
Christopher R. Barron is the president of Right Turn Strategies, a full service political communications firm, and the former co-founder of the LGBT conservative group GOProud. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRBarron.