Robert Merry comments on John McCain’s recent CNAS speech:

We may be in a new era, but it isn’t a new John McCain.

The senator summed up his underlying national-security philosophy by saying that “our interests are our values, and our values are our interests.” This lays bare the essence of McCain’s foreign policy. What does it mean to conflate values with interests? Where does it lead?

It leads to a messianic foreign policy.

If one defines “our values” to be as broad and universal as possible, and then identifies them with “our interests,” there is no limit to where “our interests” are at stake because “our values” have been defined in such a way that they are potentially at risk almost everywhere in the world. No less important, this creates a foreign policy that doesn’t acknowledge the need for trade-offs and priorities. If McCain thinks “our interests are our values, and our values are our interests,” he can always say that American interests are at stake in a foreign conflict or crisis without ever specifying what they are. He won’t be able to recognize that “our values” and “our interests” can be in tension or opposed to one another. Conflating values and interests has the effect of luring in those that want U.S. foreign policy to be focused primarily on advancing and securing national interests, and then revealing that they are being taken for a ride as part of a purely ideological project.