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McCain and Wars of Aggression

John McCain writes this and shows his usual lack of self-awareness:

Among the core principles of that order is the conviction that might does not make right, that the strong should not be allowed to dominate the weak and that wars of aggression should be relegated to the bloody past [bold mine-DL].

One of the many reasons that it is hard to take anything McCain says on Ukraine seriously is that he has been a reliable advocate for launching aggressive wars against other states when he thinks it appropriate. He would deny that this is what they are, but he has repeatedly called for the U.S. to attack other countries and he has supported the U.S. each time that it has attacked. McCain was not just a supporter, but was also a leading booster of the wars in Kosovo, Iraq, and Libya. Furthermore, he wanted the U.S. to attack Syria in 2013 and was angry when the attack didn’t happen. All of the interventions McCain has supported were aggressive wars. They were rationalized in various ways, but none of them had the slightest thing to do with the defense of the United States or our allies. In order for wars of aggression to be “relegated to the bloody past,” one thing we can do is to stop listening to McCain’s foreign policy recommendations.

McCain and other hawks like him have nothing but contempt for international law and other states’ sovereignty when they decide that U.S. intervention or a client state’s military action is desirable. But they can’t stop talking about the importance of the “core principles” of international order when some other government does the exact same thing that they would praise under other circumstances. They’re very concerned about preserving the “international system that has kept the peace for decades” except when they want to violate the rules of that system and violate the peace on some flimsy pretext. It goes without saying that McCain has no problem at all with what the Saudis and their allies are currently doing to Yemen.

Despite the fact that the Saudi-led war is just as unnecessary and unprovoked as Russian actions in Ukraine, McCain’s maincomplaint about it is that the U.S. was not quick enough to provide support to the Saudis. The point here isn’t just that McCain is highly selective in his outrage about illegal and aggressive wars, but that he is using this rhetoric to agitate for another misguided and dangerous idea–in this case sending arms to Ukraine–that would contribute to further escalation and would therefore cause more suffering and destruction in Ukraine. No matter the conflict, McCain can be counted on to take the position most likely to make things worse for the people caught up in it.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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