Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview of John McCain is very worth reading, as it gives a pretty good view into the coloring book version of the Middle East that McCain offers to the American people. For all of the Middle East leaders that McCain has met with — and he really, really wants you to know how many he has met with — McCain’s knowledge of the region persists at the level of a twenty minute briefing. It’s nice that he can name-check Barak, Olmert, and Abbas; It would be really nice if he demonstrated any knowledge of the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict, or offered any good idea on how to move the peace process forward, which he does not.
What’s really troubling is McCain’s cluelessness about the disastrous effects of the Iraq war on American security. Asked by Goldberg whether he thinks Iran’s intention “is the actual destruction of America,” McCain answers that…the United States should stay in Iraq:
It’s hard for me to say what their intentions are, but the effect -– If they were able to drive us out of Iraq, and al Qaeda established a base there, and the Shiite militias erupted and the Iranian influence was expanded, which to my mind is what would happen, then the consequences for American national security would be profound. I don’t know if their intention is to destroy America and what we stand for, but I think the consequences of them succeeding in the destruction of the state of Israel and their continued support for terrorist organizations – all of these would have profound national security consequences.
You know what’s also had profound negative consequences for American national security? Invading and occupying Iraq. McCain has offered this justification before, and continues to completely miss the point.
Of all the unintended consequences of the Iraq war, Iran’s strategic victory is the most far-reaching…For eight years of brutal warfare in the 1980s, Iran tried to breach that line but could not. (At the time, the Reagan administration supported Saddam Hussein precisely because it feared the strategic consequences of an Iraq dominated by Iran’s allies.) The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq accomplished what Khomeini’s army could not.
Journalist Robert Dreyfuss wrote in March that “the United States has spent most of the past five years in a de facto alliance with Iran in support of the Shiite-led (and US-installed) regime in Baghdad….Washington’s decision to topple Saddam’s government has put in place a ruling elite that is far closer to Iran than it is to the United States.”
The consequences of Iraq for Israel’s security have also been negative. Brian Katulis writes that “in the summer of 2006, when Israel was fighting a live war with the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, it was clear whose side most Iraqi leaders were on — and it was not Israel.”
Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki condemned Israel’s “aggression,” and that same summer, the Iraqi speaker of parliament Mahmoud Al-Mashhadani accused “Jews” of being behind the violence and murders in Iraq. Are these the type of allies that the United States wants? Is the current policy in Iraq undermining U.S. and Israeli security interests by giving Iran some breathing room to expand its influence further around the region? These are tough questions to answer, but U.S. leaders need to address this fundamental contradiction at the heart of U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Rather than consider these questions, however, McCain prefers to engage in empty sloganeering and fear-mongering as he plans the next war.