McCain’s Brain Trust Disagrees Over Whether Putin Is Hitler Or Stalin

Illustrating the diversity of views that exists in John McCain’s brain trust, McCain’s two most prominent foreign policy advisers have op-eds today in the country’s two most prominent newspapers disagreeing over whether Putin is the new Stalin, or just the new Hitler.

Robert Kagan says Hitler:

Do you recall the precise details of the Sudeten Crisis that led to Nazi Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia? Of course not, because that morally ambiguous dispute is rightly remembered as a minor part of a much bigger drama.

The events of the past week will be remembered that way, too. This war did not begin because of a miscalculation by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. It is a war that Moscow has been attempting to provoke for some time.

Thinking outside the box a little, Bill Kristol says Stalin:

When the “civilized world” expostulated with Russia about Georgia in 1924, the Soviet regime was still weak. In Germany, Hitler was in jail. Only 16 years later, Britain stood virtually alone against a Nazi-Soviet axis. Is it not true today, as it was in the 1920s and ’30s, that delay and irresolution on the part of the democracies simply invite future threats and graver dangers?

Understand that these two guys are the “big brains” of the McCain foreign policy shop, but this is how they, and John McCain, see the world: A battle between the forces of freedom and forces of authoritarianism. For Kristol, Kagan, and McCain, Russia falls into the latter category, and thus broader strategic considerations — to say nothing of attempts at historical context — can and must be cavalierly dismissed as America sallies forth to fulfill its destiny.


This isn’t to suggest that Russia aggression is defensible, just that it’s another example of the neocons cloaking their goal of American global hegemony in the rhetoric of freedom, and ending up weakening and discrediting both.

We should seriously question the sort of mentality that insists, as Kristol does, that throwing “the Vladimir Putins and Hu Jintaos and Mahmoud Ahmadinejads of the world” all together into one category is a productive approach to foreign policy. But then, remember that these are the brainiacs who thought it was a great idea to invade Iraq and destabilize the Middle East in order to restructure the regional security architecture in a way more conducive to U.S. interests.

One of the many negative consequences of Kristol, Kagan, et al’s cunning plan has been skyrocketing oil prices, which have resulted in turn in huge oil revenues for Russia, which have been a central factor in Russia’s once again becoming a major player on the international stage, enabling it to pursue its own hegemonic goals against its smaller, weaker neighbors. It would be great if the next president had advisers who understood how this sort of thing works.