John McCain is a Dangerous Radical

It should be obvious by now that John McCain wants to attack everyone, everywhere. In September 2013, Mother Jones made a map of the world showing that McCain has advocated attacking roughly half the Eastern Hemisphere’s land mass. Now he wants to attack basically everyone in Syria. Even the hawkish Jeffrey Goldberg thinks this is a bit much:

McCain’s second criticism: Obama is not attacking the root cause of the Syrian war, which is the behavior of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its supporters in Iran. He said the U.S. should be bombing government targets at the same time it is bombing Assad’s Islamic State enemies. I, too, am dispositionally interventionist, but it seemed to me that McCain was outlining not only a formula for chaos, but also a program that could not possibly be sold to the American people.

I asked him this question: “Wouldn’t the generals say to you, ‘You want me to fight ISIS, and you want me to fight the guys who are fighting ISIS, at the same time? Why would we bomb guys who are bombing ISIS? That would turn this into a crazy standoff.’ ”

“Our ultimate job is not only to defeat ISIS but to give the Syrian people the opportunity to prevail as well,” McCain answered. “Remember, there are 192,000 dead Syrians thanks to Assad. If we do this right, if we do the right kind of training and equipping of the Free Syrian Army, plus air strikes, plus taking out Bashar Assad’s air assets, we could reverse the battlefield equation.”

The U.S. could conceivably wage war on two fronts against two vicious parties that are also warring against each other, on a battlefield in which another set of America’s enemies — Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps — are also fighting. But this is a much too complicated mission for any post-Iraq War American president to prudently tackle, even a president not quite so reluctant as Obama.

For those Americans who are moving toward McCain and away from Paul on crucial questions concerning the U.S.’s role in the world, I can’t imagine that they would be able to stomach such a war, either.

If you think John McCain actually understands the complexity of trying to hold together an alliance to fight ISIS that includes Sunni governments in Amman, Riyadh, Cairo, and Ankara and Shiite governments in Baghdad and Teheran, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. The war in Syria is sectarian in nature, as are most of the problems within Iraq.

If you are trying to get Baghdad to govern inclusively, you can’t take the side of the Sunnis in Syria. If you can get consensus from the Sunni powers to eliminate the most radical and effective army on their side of the fight, then you’ve accomplished something. But, if you take it too far, everything will blow up in your face.

I wake up every day thanking fate that John McCain never got to order our armed forces around.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.