Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has grudgingly supported the anti-government movement in Egypt and called on President Hosni Mubarak to step down yesterday. But appearing on Fox News host Greta Van Susteren’s show last night, McCain suggested he has serious reservations about the larger pro-democracy movement sweeping the Arab World from Tunisia to Jordon. McCain called the populist movement a “virus” that threatens Israel, and warned that we are in “probably the most dangerous period of history” of American involvement in the Middle East:
VAN SUSTEREN: But Israel must be completely on edge because this is one of the two Arab countries that recognize them.
MCCAIN: Yes. And the other Arab country, Jordan, is — the president has just had to replace the whole government. He wouldn’t be — excuse me, the king, King Abdullah, has had to replace the whole government. This virus is spreading throughout the Middle East. The president of Yemen, as you know, just made the announcement that he wasn’t running again.
This, I would argue, is probably the most dangerous period of history in — of our entire involvement in the Middle East, at least in modern times. Israel is in danger of being surrounded by countries that are against the very existence of Israel, are governed by radical organizations.
The pro-democracy movement has been rightly viewed by many observers as an unprecedented embrace of freedom and self-determination in a region sorely lacking both. While this “virus” certainly threatens the health of authoritarian regimes in the area, some of whom are American allies, this seems like a worthy price to pay for a chance to advance democracy. And one has to wonder why McCain views this pro-democratic upheaval as the “most dangerous” time for the U.S. in Middle East, instead of, say, the Iraq war — a different approach to spreading democracy in the region.