It is no secret that my opinions on this presidential race have wavered significantly over time. I've gone back and forth over whether or not I can support Barack Obama. But the truth is, this entire time I've had the same opinion about the man: I believe he's an exceptionally good person, who is exceptionally willing to compromise some of his beliefs to get things done.
My beliefs about the man himself have not changed, but my opinion on whether or not I should vote for him has. As the election draws dangerously near, my answer to this quandary has trended strongly toward "hell yes." There are a number of reasons for this, but perhaps most important are his differences with John McCain on war. Not just on Iraq, but on war in general.
A month or two ago I saw some TV pundit state that McCain is actually to the right of President George W. Bush on Iraq. She pointed out that whereas Bush has sounded open to persuasion following Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's suggestion that the United States should set a timetable for withdrawal, McCain has strongly opposed the idea.
I wasn't too surprised to learn that McCain out-hawks Bush on post-invasion Iraq, but I was a little surprised when I later found out that he's been to the right of Bush all along.
In an article for GQ called "Prisoner of War," Robert Draper describes a speech delivered by McCain which called for invading Iraq more than a year before it happened. Draper writes, "It was an astonishingly bellicose address, far more aggressive than even the Bush administration's public stance at the time."
As I read the article, I started to see McCain as a man who is truly a "prisoner of war," a man obsessed with war itself. Draper reports several incidents that occurred in some of McCain's visits to Iraq that strongly reinforce this notion.
For example, on one visit to Camp Fallujah, McCain cut off an officer mid-presentation because "he wanted to hear about last year's battle. The officer obliged, describing the grueling effort to secure Fallujah block by block, house by house, at a cost of seventy-one American lives. McCain ... was visibly moved."
Toward the end of the article, Draper describes McCain as "a man deeply in the sway of combat valor who could sometimes seem to treasure the morale of the American military more than peace itself."
An arguably even better article to learn about McCain's militaristic mind is Tim Dickinson's "Make Believe Maverick," featured in this month's Rolling Stone. Dickinson characterizes McCain as "a man willing to say and do anything to achieve his ultimate ambition: to become commander in chief, ascending to the one position that would finally enable him to outrank his four-star father and grandfather."
In his second debate with Obama, McCain hailed Theodore Roosevelt as his hero. It makes sense: Roosevelt was one of the architects of modern American imperialism, once even saying, "I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one."
Roosevelt announced the "Roosevelt Corollary" to the "Monroe Doctrine," declaring that the United States has the right to intervene anywhere in the Western Hemisphere at its discretion. To show Central and South America he wasn't kidding, he sailed "The Great White Fleet" all around the region (and eventually around the whole world), carrying fourteen thousand soldiers and hundreds of thousands of tons of weapons. According to historian Stephen Kinzer, Roosevelt asked his guests aboard the "Mayflower," while grinning, "Did you ever see such a fleet?" and he exclaimed, "It ought to make us all feel proud!"
I was instantly reminded of this while reading the Dickinson article, which described MCain on board a supercarrier in the Middle East in Jan. 2002. "Standing on the flight bridge, he watched as fighter planes roared off, en route to Afghanistan . . . 'Next up, Baghdad!' McCain whooped." The carrier on which he stood was named the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Basically, McCain wants to be the next Teddy Roosevelt; he wants to be the next guy to carry the "big stick." Whereas I believe Obama is dying to be this nation's Chief Executive, Chief of State and Chief Legislator, McCain is daydreaming of being Commander-in-Chief and cares about little else.
I haven't seen war and neither has Barack Obama, but I know that war is the most terrible thing that exists on earth and, although I cringe at Obama talking of sending more troops to Afghanistan, I think he agrees with me that war should be seen as a last resort -- something to be avoided whenever possible.
McCain, on the other hand, thinks war is awesome. He sees it as America's central instrument of foreign policy, an institution of great glory and honor rather than one of unfortunate death and destruction. How else do you explain someone who would respond to a foreign policy question at a town hall by singing "Bomb Bomb Iran" to the tune of a Beach Boys song?
To all who agree that war represents the rock-bottom netherworld of the human condition: I urge you to join me in voting against the official war candidate. Let's kick neoconservative insanity out of the White House.