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May 29th, 2008
03:27 PM ET

McCain: A Neocon realist?

Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editor, The Nation

John McCain's widely-touted speech on nuclear security has been treated by the mainstream media as a major break with Bush Administration policy. And while there are elements which diverge from some of Bush's destructive politics and policies–it is, after all, an Administration which has shredded several decades worth of bipartisan arms control agreements with the Russians– it's also important to understand that McCain continues to define the problem through the prism of the Bush Doctrine.

How, for example does McCain, who seeks to expel Russian from the Group of Eight industrialized countries, anticipate negotiating successful arms agreements with the expelled country? How does a candidate whose neocon "League of Democracies" proposal–which would exclude Russia and, in doing so, undermine any role that country could play in dealing with Iran and securing weapons of mass destruction–expect Moscow to be receptive to real efforts on nuclear cooperation? Instead of hailing McCain's stance as a sign of his newfound realism –and a Johnny-Come-Lately break with the neocons– it's critical to put McCain's remarks into a larger context.

I asked Joseph Cirincione, president of the respected Ploughshares Fund and author of Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons, for some deeper analysis of McCain's speech:

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Filed under: John McCain • Katrina vanden Heuvel
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. penny

    Please, Please, no more McCain, he's a vietnam veteran with "ISSUES". US would be in worse shape than we are already in. He would anger the whole world as president. Even his wife don't "dig" him. He is horrible.

    May 29, 2008 at 10:51 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    Omitting Russia is not a good sign. I've lived through one cold war; I don't want another one. I can't imagine why McCain would exclude them; did he not get the memo that the Cold War was dead?

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 29, 2008 at 9:48 pm |
  3. Loretta from California

    Let's see, more food banks, gas prices soaring, Iraq for 100 years, American corporations becoming more and more corrupt. Need I go on.

    Go ahead, vote for John McCain.

    Loretta–I will not vote for a racist Party

    May 29, 2008 at 7:20 pm |
  4. Loretta from California

    I believe it was a couple of months ago that Larry King asked Senator Obama if he intended to visit Iraq. Senator Obama's answer was that he has plans to go before the end of this year or December. Do you think you can be a little more original? Pehaps you could ask questions, (or make suggesions) that have not already been answered. (or suggested)

    Yes, I watch Larry King. Faithfully.

    Loretta–I will not vote for a racist Party.

    May 29, 2008 at 7:10 pm |
  5. Ann

    McCain may be " unpredictable", but at least he won't be Obama. That's one we DO NOT need as President. If so many think McCain is way out there, get Obama in there and you will find out just how much he (Obama ) doesn't know. At least McCain has served this country and shows a general interest in it. But, our only hope for this country is Hillary! Otherwise, all you Obama supporters WILL get McCain in November.

    May 29, 2008 at 6:57 pm |
  6. Vince in CA

    Just like we can't predict what Obama has to talk about with Iran and others like them. And I'll answer you because I know you have an answer for what he'll talk about: They'll blow us off either too our faces or in some fake agreement meant to appear to appease us. Then they'll kick us when our back is turned. Just like in history. While we're comparing people (Obama=Kennedy, Obama=King) how about McCain=Washington, McCain=Lincoln, or McCain=Grant.

    May 29, 2008 at 6:46 pm |
  7. Vince in CA

    KarenD: Thankyou. I'm getting tired of all these catch phrases and flash card words being used; and not in the right context.

    Maybe we need to go that direction. People need to start picking sides. A war is coming that will make what's going on now look like nothing. If we want democracy then we should work with democratic nations. This could be a way to force Russia into becoming a democratic government. McCain needs to line up who are allies are and we need to start figuring out who our enemies are. we don't need to worry too much about Russia not being safe with nuclear weapons and energy. It's countrie like India and Pakistan and many of the Middle Eastern countries and terror groups.
    And what's this destructive policies thing? Katrina, I don't think you could run a county let alone a country. The time for nice is over. Nice got the us attacked time and time again. We can be respectful. But there won't be any bending over. Learn more about the world. And not just hotels and tourist spots. Go embed yourself in Afganistan or Iraq for a couple of years. If you look back it's easy to see how our nation as a whole has been, was, and still is being done wrong by the U.N. and members of NATO.

    May 29, 2008 at 5:51 pm |
  8. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    McCain is unpredictable and you don't know where he stands. Rupert Murdoch said it best "unpredictable".

    May 29, 2008 at 5:29 pm |
  9. KarenD

    Katrina is yet another rabid journalist who tosses the term "Neocon" around without a clue as to what it means.

    May 29, 2008 at 5:22 pm |
  10. Kent, Illinois

    If we disreguard Russia from anything we are in trouble. I believe Bush only understands tough, over the top, threatening leaders and countries. It's pretty easy for him to just say he wants to go to war...........fight, fight , fight...........old Washington and old ways.

    He looks at the Russians as weak now........broken. That is an incredible error on his part and on John McCain's part. Russia has the capacity to deliver as much destruction as the US can. Only, their leader doesn't need support to start a war..........

    May 29, 2008 at 5:13 pm |
  11. PJ

    I am guilty, just like most of my friends and family, of being glued to CNN every second that we can. We have stopped watching other networks like FOX because of the biased reporting they display. The question that is on all of our minds, but is not being answered, is who is paying the networks to suppress certain information? Why when Sen. Clinton or Huckabee make an unsavory remark, it's noted as they really didn't mean it or it came out the wrong way, but if the Obama's make a remark it is torn to pieces? What about the fact that Clinton has been overspending her campaign $s. If she can't budget her few millions, how is she going to help the budget crisis in America? What about her ex-pastor who was found guilty of child molestation a couple of weeks ago? I for one would like to see this campaign process focus on the individual candidates, but if you are going to drag people through the mud, don't just do it to one candidate, be fair and diplomatic about the process. John Kings' map is really funny to me. He focuses on one area that Clinton won and says that the repulicans won this area last general election and she can win there. If you look at the map, the republicans "won" all over the map last election. Why has there been no investigation of the "Hacking Democracy" program? You seem to try to bring out the truth...there are a lot of people who want to know if our system has failed us once again. Finally, the Clinton's have a hidden agenda obviously. There is no other reason why she is still in this race. It is also obvious that she and her husband will do "ANYTHING" to make things happen their way. How do people of the democratic party be heard on the FL/MI situation? We are told everyday that we must follow the law and rules....but now we give in to these states and Clinton, when they inttentionally break the rules. What example are we sending?

    May 29, 2008 at 4:48 pm |
  12. Lisa

    And therein lies our problems with much of the Middle East - our unfair policies, depending at any given time who our "allies" happen to be. If I recall correctly, Iraq was once our "ally" and it was we who supplied them with WMDs in our little tussle with Russia (anyone remember Iran v. Iraq?)

    Pakistan is an "ally" who harbors the individual responsible for 9/11 (OBL) within its borders and has threatened retaliation should we actively go after him within their borders. With friends like this, who needs enemies?

    When we pick and choose who gets what, it is we who creates the instability in that region. Where nuclear weapons are concerned, every country needs to have a seat at the table – not just a select few. I have never been worried about China as a nuclear threat (they strike, we strike, the world ends). It has always been those "rogue" nations – that I have been more concerned about.

    We really need to consider that motto: "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer". Unfortunately, it does appear we will continue with the "Might makes Right" motto of the current administration.

    May 29, 2008 at 4:40 pm |
  13. Jay, Denver CO

    McCain doesn't care about the direction of our country or the world. Afterall, he's only got a couple more years to live and he just wants to have fun and live it up as best he can! He'll bomb Iran just for the excitement!

    May 29, 2008 at 4:33 pm |
  14. Paris

    Can you please let me know which one of our allied we have lost?
    Some of you keep repeating this with no substance just like your candidate Obama.
    McCain has the respect of all of our allies, that is why he was welcomed to visit them only two months ago.
    Russia has never been an allied.

    Please when you comment try to be realistic and not just talk because you hate Bush. This Bush hating is over shadowing your commonsense.

    The difference is John McCain visits UK, FRANCE and calls them allies of United State where Carter and Pelosi visit Syria
    Or Hamas the enemies of the western world.
    Now who eliminates our allies?

    CNN = Politics is part of the problem not the solution.

    May 29, 2008 at 4:03 pm |
  15. Cindy

    No matter what McCain says or does he can never please everyone. At least he has a plan and is willing to get out there and work it. What does Obama have? Nothing but words and no plans to speak of! Yeah...he can really do away with the loose nukes in his supposed first year in office! If he and anyone else believes that they are insane! At least McCain is more practical and doesn't make ridiculous statements such as that.

    May 29, 2008 at 3:58 pm |
  16. Jeff, California

    Listening to McCain and his proposals about international diplomacy remind me of the sophistication of MTV's The Real World. A bunch of kids in a house getting angry with each other over someone stealing underwear and then giving the silent treatment on the basis that the other person isn't acting "mature." Which is basically a long way of saying that McCain's policies and the way in which he speaks about the US relationship with other countries comes across as an uneducated, immature grandfather stuck in the day of old.

    It's baffling to me how he can argue his experience when clearly his opinions and stance don't seem to incorporate anything world history has taught us about this delicate relationships.

    May 29, 2008 at 3:56 pm |
  17. Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA

    A President McCain will be a continuation of policies which distances us from our allies and totally severs relationships with our enemies, a situation which brings the world closer to disaster by throwing fuel on the many geo-political flash points around the globe.

    May 29, 2008 at 3:46 pm |