John McCain Is Our Ayatollah
For all practical purposes, John McCain is the equivalent in our culture to those ancient robed ayatollahs in Iran we damn for standing in the way of democratic change.
The 77-year-old McCain parlayed his suffering as a Vietnam War POW into one of the more durable political careers in Washington. In his heart, he may feel he should be President of the United States instead of his 2008 opponent Barack Obama. Thanks to all this political history and current US cultural realities, McCain plays the role of a wise, spiritual "ayatollah" of militarism. Instead of peace-making and the progressive change that would strengthen the nation from the bottom up, we get elite militarist braggadocio that strengthens the top ranks of an already top-heavy order and ratchets up costly war fever.
For many, McCain's old-warrior message is mythic and laden with spiritual gravitas. Like the ayatollahs do on the international stage, McCain takes the pulse of our imperial culture, then assumes a hard and fast line that intensely polarizes conditions and, in doing so, taps into all the usual American symbols of exceptionalism. He just did this masterfully in a New York times op-ed that plays shamelessly to the far-right imperial class.
It also ratchets up a condition of belligerence and reminds me of the slogan from Veterans For Peace that always resonates with me at times like this: "Wars are easy to start and very difficult to stop." As we know, that was true in Vietnam, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. None of those adventures ended well or in our favor. All that this kind of easy militarization of an international problem does is, one, appease hyperventilating militarists and, two, slow the demonized enemy down a little.
Chances are the exact same less-than-perfect ending of such military adventures could have been reached through diplomacy. The militarist right will, of course, chuckle confidently that this is naive liberalism, even appeasement. The trouble is a diplomatic alternative entails some element of humility, which is unknown to the elite militarist class. So the diplomatic option never is given a chance to work. It's damned without ever being tested.
Given the history of Crimea from the Crimean War of 1854 to the fact the population of Crimea is 58 percent Russian, it is a no-brainer that Russia has a legitimate stake in Crimea. Certainly as much of a stake as the British had in the Falklands and that the United States has in Puerto Rico.
Sabre-rattlers like McCain like to demonize President Putin by calling him a "thug" and ridiculing his narcissistic penchant for going shirtless in macho poses. If being a narcissist and, even, a culturally-successful sociopath is grounds alone for damnation, our side with Wall Street and the Pentagon can go mano-a-mano with Russia any day of the week.
You gotta hand it to McCain, though. The following from his NYT op-ed has to be the best Putin-bashing we've seen.