This may have been the most revealing comment from John McCain in his recent New Republic interview:
But I don’t think there is any doubt that, if you look at the world five years ago and today, we live in a far, far more dangerous world.
This is not true, but it does help explain how McCain assesses threats. The conflict in Syria is terrible and poses real dangers to Syria’s neighbors, but overall the world has not become “far, far more dangerous” in the last five years. So there is a great deal of doubt that “the world” has become significantly more dangerous in the last five years. The fact that McCain believes that it has, or at least claims to believe it, reconfirms how poor his judgment can be. He continually exaggerates how dangerous the world is and how serious the threats are to the U.S. According to the hard-liners’ view, the world is always becoming more dangerous, and therefore the only response to this ever-increasing danger that they will accept is an ongoing increase in the number of commitments that the U.S. overseas.
McCain said this later on:
I have not been more worried about the world as we see it—ever.
Here we see that alarmism is simply the default response from McCain. There has to have been some point in McCain’s life when there was more reason to worry about the state of the world than there is today, but we are supposed to believe that the perils are much greater now because it happens to suit McCain’s preference for aggressive policy measures. In another five years, McCain will say that the world is even more dangerous than it was in 2013 because that is what he and those like him always say.
McCain laments that the U.S. is acting as a “bystander” in the Near East, which is unfortunately also untrue, but the unspoken assumption here is that being a “bystander” to what he calls “the greatest seismic event in the Middle East since the fall of the Ottoman Empire” would be some kind of intolerable failure. Considering the track record of outside powers that haven’t been bystanders in this region, it’s bizarre that McCain thinks that America or the region would be better off with an even more activist and meddlesome U.S. role.