Nikolas Gvosdev refutes what he calls John McCain’s “vengeance doctrine.” He writes:
In his questioning of Kerry, McCain asserted that because the United States has not chosen to intervene aggressively against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, America is at risk. Quoting a Syrian teacher, McCain said, “This next generation of children will take revenge on those that that did not help them.”
As Gvosdev explains, McCain’s reasoning is absurd. I agree that it doesn’t make much sense that members of the Syrian opposition would seek revenge against the governments and nations that have been mildly sympathetic to their cause but did not provide military support. Keeping the U.S. out of an unnecessary conflict in Syria doesn’t create a threat to American security. It’s highly unlikely that a top priority for members of the Syrian opposition will be to exact “revenge” on people who didn’t do anything to them. Whatever the outcome of the Syrian conflict, opponents of the Syrian regime will presumably have far more pressing concerns. McCain is presumably just trying to create fear to make some form of military intervention seem less obnoxious than it is.
What I find remarkable about this is that McCain doesn’t accept the idea that activist and interventionist U.S. policies around the world have any negative consequences for U.S. security. As for so many other hawks like him, McCain imagines that blowback never happens and U.S. interference in other countries’ affairs never comes back to haunt Americans later. The U.S. may prop up dictators, invade or bomb other countries, or impose cruel sanctions on whole nations, but supposedly no one would ever seek “revenge” for those things. According to McCain, it is only when the U.S. “fails” to take military action that the U.S. it at risk from the resentment and grievances of other nations. While choosing not to intervene in another country’s conflict may produce ill will from the losing side, this doesn’t pose a threat to the U.S., and it’s a sign of how desperate some interventionists are to drag the U.S. into another war that they would promote the idea that it does.