Sunday, August 17, 2008

Is McCain General Patton or General Buck Turgidson?

by Norman Markowitz

The Republican Right and their many friends and allies in the media are attacking Senator Obama for saying little about the Russia-Georgia conflict, after an initial statement which was very critical of Russia, but called for a United Nations role and made no direct threats. McCain, meanwhile, has done what he has pretty much always done, tried to repeat for his audience George C. Scott's role as General Patton in Patton or for his critics George C. Scott's role as General Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove by shouting threats at the Russians and providing military band cheerleading for Saakashivili's U.S. Republican influenced Georgian government.

First, let me say that, while I hold no brief for the Russian government, which I regard as a government seeking to develop a state capitalist path for the Russian federation (one that would consolidate the dismemberment of the Soviet Union and strengthen the "new class" of state connected capitalists, running both public and private industries on capitalist profit maximization principles). I don't regard it in any way as "worse" than the Georgian government. Georgia is led by a man who in essence comes from the U.S., has identified strongly with both Georgian national chauvinism and the Reagan-Bush "free market" capitalist ideology which has led to disaster in the U.S. everywhere. Also, he was elected "president" of Georgia in an election which was by my readings more suspicious than the election of either Putin or his successor Medvedev.

We should also remember that there is also a North Ossetia in Russia, that the separatist regions in Georgia have there own issues and have been in existence since the dismemberment of the Soviet Union (which in effect, made conflicts like this pretty much inevitable) and that the Georgian regime's attempt to regain these regions was the trigger for the Russian military action.

But, while I may have some disagreements with Senator Obama's statement, I both understand it and, more importantly, applaud him for doing what an American president should do in a situation like this, stay out of it as much as possible and do nothing to intensify conflict with Russia, which remains because of its nuclear arsenals the second greatest military power on earth.

Obama's actions are a clear example of a president who will move away from Bush's isolating and destructive military unilateralism.

It is frankly what presidents with serious military backgrounds, like President Eisenhower in the 1950s, who understood as a professional soldier that Generals like Patton were useful in specific combat situations, but you never let them make policy, would have done. I can see Eisenhower for example trying to use the CIA to overthrow Saddam, but I cannot, if he were around after the 9/11 attacks see him invading Iraq even if he believed the phony intelligence (which I know he wouldn't have), because it made no strategic or tactical sense, except for those who wished to weaken the U.S.

McCain, however, makes no such distinctions. As Eisenhower's son John said of him, "he was never a military fanatic." McCain always has been and that is a very good reason why even some of those who have no interest in the deepening economic crisis in the U.S., its effects on health care, housing, basic infrastructure, should think twice about voting for John McCain because he could conceivably get them, along with the rest of us, killed over Iraq, Iran, or even South Ossetia.

There is a story in today's New York Times which highlights the danger that McCain represents in an unanalytical way (in that it contends that the reckless and literal war mongering statements that he has made make him a hero to his supporters)

The record shows how McCain, without any assistance from "neo Conservative" advisers, has out Bushed Bush when it comes to military interventionism since the September 11 attacks.

The article shows that McCain flew off the handle and began to call for military attacks against a whole group of countries, Syria, Iraq, and Iran along with Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. (Interestingly, he didn't say anything about Saudi Arabia or Pakistan).

McCain had focused on Iraq as the country to attack publicly by October, 2001, in statements made to U.S. television. On January 2, 2002, on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, McCain, shouted to the sailors "next up, Bag dad."

If Eisenhower were around and McCain had any military command, I think that Eisenhower would have immediately removed him from that command. You do that sort of thing in Hollywood movies, not in reality.

McCain's actions also show, for those not lost in a world of Hollywood war movies and History Channel sendups of the technical aspects of battles, that he really is a fool, with no strategic sense of anything. The countries he mentioned had no real connection of any kind with Al Qaeda and, whatever else they were, were enemies of what Al Qaeda is. Responding to crises by making military action the first resort, seeking to expand military action in terms of the number of enemies you have, leads most of the time to defeat.

The article also has McCain addressing a NATO conference in Munich no less in 2002 pushing for action against Iraq and stating of the September 11 attacks, "a better world is already emerging from the rubble."

Really. A better world meaning more militarism, more intervention(if Bush had listened to McCain, the war against Iraq might have become even worse than it is today, a general regional war involving Iran, Syria, Israel, and who knows what else.

But has McCain learned anything from the last five years? Does he regret anything? Like reactionaries, he learns nothing and forgets nothing. He blames any "errors" he may have made on Hussein's government's actions and statements which "misled him." In a moment really worthy of General Buck Turgidson in DR Strangelove, he wrote, the article mentions, an email last week on the September 11 attacks which said that they "demonstrated the grave threat posed by a hostile regime, possessing weapons of mass destruction, and with reported ties to terrorists....his [Hussein's] posed a threat we had to take seriously...." and the September 11 attacks show the necessity of action "to prevent outlaw states, like Iran today, from developing weapons of mass destruction.

Think about the breathtaking and sinister ignorance of that statement which McCain made last week. The U.S. was threatened by a regime that all serious intelligence told it that it had no "weapons of mass destruction" (of which nuclear weapons are really the only serious new ones) that there were years of UN inspection to support that, and that when it had such weapons, namely poison gas, it had not used them in the first gulf war. The "reported ties to terrorists" everyone now knows and virtually everyone with any knowledge of what was happening knew at the time were fabrications created by those who wanted war and we ready to simply reject anything that stood in their way, that is, all serious intelligence analysis from the U.S. and its NATO allies, which was why the Cheney-Rumsfeld group in effect developed its own "intelligence" aka propaganda disinformation campaign to provide a rationale for the war. What we can learn from all of this is the necessity of using similar methods against Iran?

The article goes on to portray McCain in what I see as Buck Turgidson terms. The Admiral's son who grew up with General Sherman statements about war being hell, so the best thing you can do is get it over with quickly be massive force (a reasonable point in the U.S. Civil War, but not one in the cold war, where Curtis Lemay had the same idea about a nuclear war, which he wanted with the Soviets, because the longer the U.S. waited the stronger they would become) McCain "blaming" Lyndon Johnson for his post Tet bombing pause and opening of peace negotiations in Paris for "prolonging" the war in 1968 (Curtis Lemay was then George C. Wallace's Vice Presidential running mate and getting off the racist man message of the Wallace campaign by saying the U.S. should bomb Vietnam into the stone age, a statement that McCain appears to agree with). McCain's praise for Richard Nixon for dropping more bombs on Vietnam than Johnson, as if this really did more than kill hundreds of thousands more Indochinese, make millions more homeless, and prolong the war for another four years.

For those who believe that McCain will somehow break with Bush's Strangelovian "neo Conservative" advisers, the article shows that he began to identify with them and their foreign policy platform in 1997 while Bush was still Governor of Texas, that he in effect anticipated in his 2000 Republican primary campaign many of their themes by attacking Iran, Iraq, Serbia and attacking the Clinton administration for its failures to act against these governments while Bush was de-emphasizing foreign policy issues.

All that McCain's advisers can say is that he didn't go along with the "neo cons" entirely, he supported "indirect" U.S. action to fund the overthrow of these regimes, was on record (with Fox News no else) in 1998 that it would be more difficult to convince the American people to fight a war against Iraq than it was when Hussein invaded Kuwait. These are incredibly hollow statements among advisers who seek both accuse Obama of not pursuing policies that produced the disaster in Iraq while at the same time they seek to separate McCain, who is on record as supporting policies which were much were extreme, from that disaster.

John McCain doesn't understand that those who profit the most from wars are those who do the least fighting and are around economically and politically to pick up the pieces. John McCain doesn't understand that there is both a social economic foundation to the conditions that lead to wars and that there are diplomatic policies and solutions that have and can prevent war. It is John McCain who has learned nothing from his military experiences and his POW status, except to do it all over again and do it better this time.

Although Dwight Eisenhower was no progressive on domestic issues and had no sympathy for Truman's integration of the military or the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education which ended segregation, I will go very far out on a limb and say that if he were around he would (quietly with no endorsement) vote for Barack Obama over John McCain. He would do so because he would, as a lifelong professional soldier, realize how dangerous someone with McCain's mindset would be to the country and to to world peace and stability. As president he always pulled such people back both in the Pentagon and in Congress. If John McCain reaches the White House, no one will be able to pull him back.