Wednesday, October 08, 2008

McCain's nationalistic arrogance

I was really struck by McCain's hyperbolic statement in Tuesday's debate, "America is the greatest force for good in the history of the world."

I think it's safe to safe that a McCain administration would continue the same kind of good-vs.-evil thinking that the Cheney-Bush administration has used to frame their wars, domestic spying, massive military budgets and just about everything else they wanted to do.

I'm not even thinking so much of the hypocrisy involved. Such a comment effectively rejects any notion of realistic limits to American power abroad. And in Christian relgion terms, it's idolatry.

I don't just say that as a snarky comment. McCain's formulation is essentially a religious formulation. It goes beyond even Bill Clinton's favorite hyperbolic version that America is "the greatest country in the history of the world". "Greatest" at least can mean "biggest" or "most powerful", the latter generally understood to be true for the "sole superpower".


Such a formulation is blind nationalism. It doesn't stand up to the most superficial thought. German officials have a standard formula they use in relation to the events of the Third Reich and the Holocaust that says there is no such thing as collective guilt, but there is collective responsibility. It would be sensible for American politicians to adopt a concept along the lines of, "there is no such thing as collective virtue but there is collective responsibility."

It's probably not the perfect formulation, either. But it's infinitely better than, "America is the greatest force for good in the history of the world."

McCain's concept inevitably leads to arrogance, moralization of foreign policy problems that require pragmatic solutions, and an overestimation of American power.

How can even a character like McCain who thinks in Cold War terms and basically purely militaristic ones, at that, make such a statement at a moment like this? When even America's allies see the United States engaged in a war of aggression in Iraq, practicing torture in a Gulag of torture centers, and ripping apart the structure of international law that was a genuine source of moral pride for Americans in decades past? Although he evidently doesn't recognize or care about the hypocrisy involved, one would hope he would have some pragmatic grip of how ridiculous it sounds. But evidently he doesn't recognize that, either.

McCain's statement is an expression of the arrogant, reckless foreign policy we could expect from a McCain administration.

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