The good news is that no-one cares about McCain. Like George W. Bush, he remains beguiled by the mirage of Arab democracy. As Bush wrote on May 17 in the Wall Street Journal,
America does not get to choose if a freedom revolution should begin or end in the Middle East or elsewhere. It only gets to choose what side it is on.
The day when a dictator falls or yields to a democratic movement is glorious. The years of transition that follow can be difficult. People forget that this was true in Central Europe, where democratic institutions and attitudes did not spring up overnight. From time to time, there has been corruption, backsliding and nostalgia for the communist past. Essential economic reforms have sometimes proved painful and unpopular.
It takes courage to ignite a freedom revolution. But it also takes courage to secure a freedom revolution through structural reform. And both types of bravery deserve our support.
Much as I like the man personally, George W. Bush was a disaster for his country and his party, squandering the enormous mandate he received after 9/11 to the point that a first-term senator from Illinois could walk into the White House. The delusion that democracy can be exported help cost the Republicans the 2008 election. McCain continues to push for U.S. intervention in Syria, despite massive public opposition to an American role. Intervening in Syria is the dumbest thing America could so. As I argued in this space on June 13, we should neutralize Iran and let the Syrian business play out as it might. We don’t want the pro-Iranian Alawite regime to keep control, and we don’t want an opposition dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood to take power. The solution that best corresponds to American interests is “none of the above,” and we should do our best to arrange that.
The best way to deal with the rancid leftovers of the Bush Freedom Agenda and its affection for elected Islamists is to ignore them. There is no consolation for the Republican establishment. After more than 6,500 American dead and nearly ten times that number wounded, not to mention scores of thousands of disrupted lives, and a trillion-dollar expense, we might say that the supposed universal human yearning for freedom was a weak hook on which to hang American foreign policy. If you sent the soldiers off to die and spent the taxpayers’ money, though, it’s hard to admit that this is your legacy.
Put the onus on Obama. Let McCain explain, if he wants to, why it doesn’t bother him that Morsi wants to spring the blind sheikh of the World Trade Center bombings. No-one will care what McCain says. As for Ms. Abedin: she might be a threat to national security in her State Department perch, but she’d have to take a number to do any harm. There are a couple of dozen Obama appointees at State who worry me a great deal more, not to mention a president.
This is an election, not a battle of the blogs. Obama is soft on the declared enemies of the United States. Hit the hot button and stay on message.