Having cheerfully confessed he knows little about economics, John McCain is advancing himself as a foreign-policy president, a "realistic idealist," he told the World Affairs Council of Los Angeles.
But judging from the content of his speech, McCain is no more a realist than he is a reflective man.
Speaking of our five-year war in Iraq, McCain declares, "It would be an unconscionable act of betrayal, a stain on our character as a nation, if we were to walk away from the Iraqi people and consign them to the horrendous violence, ethnic cleansing, and possible genocide that would follow a reckless, irresponsible and premature withdrawal."
Fair point. There is surely a great risk in a too-rapid withdrawal.
But if a U.S. withdrawal, after 4,000 dead and 33,000 wounded, and a trillion dollars sunk, runs the risk of a genocidal calamity, what does that tell us about the wisdom of those who marched us into this war?
What threat did Saddam ever pose comparable to the cataclysm McCain says we face if we pull out? Who, Senator, put American on the horns of so horrible a dilemma?
"Whether they were in Iraq before is immaterial," McCain warns, "al-Qaida is there now." And that is surely true.
But if al-Qaida was not in Iraq before we invaded, why did we invade? And if al-Qaida is there now, what was the magnet that drew them in, if not the U.S. occupation McCain himself championed?
Like Condi Rice, who regularly disparages the policies of every president from FDR to Bill Clinton, McCain enjoys parading the higher morality of his devotion to democracy-uber-alles.
"For decades in the Middle East we had a strategy of relying upon autocrats to provide order and stability. We relied on the Shah, the autocratic rulers of Egypt, the generals of Pakistan, the Saudi royal family. ... We can no longer delude ourselves that relying on these outdated autocrats is the safest bet."
Speaking of self-delusion, does McCain believe the "democrats" lately elected in Pakistan will be tougher on al-Qaida and the Taliban than Pervez Musharraf, who has twice escaped assassination for having sided with us?
Does McCain think this new crowd in Islamabad will be more pro-American than the general, when the people who voted them in are among the most anti-American in the Islamic world?
From Richard Nixon to George Bush I, we expelled Moscow from Egypt, won the Cold War, brought peace between Egypt and Israel, and created a worldwide alliance, including Hafez al-Assad of Syria, that drove Saddam's army out of Kuwait.