The Battle for McCain

(I apologize for not having posted in some three weeks. A trip to China, followed by various technical glitches that made it impossible to save postings, are mostly responsible.)

Thursday’s New York Times has a useful front-page feature entitled “Foreign Policy: 2 Camps Seek McCain’s Ear” which confirms the existence of a struggle between realists, on the one hand, and neo-conservatives and aggressive nationalists, on the other, for influence over John McCain’s foreign-policy views. I wrote about this several times in February, most notably here, but it seems to me that the Times article adduces remarkably little evidence, apart from the reassuring noises directed at Washington’s European allies in his March 26 speech in Los Angeles, that the realists are in serious contention. (Less hard-line neo-conservatives, like Robert Kagan, have always complained about Bush’s gratuitous alienation of Washington’s traditional allies.) Moreover, to characterize Kissinger and Shultz as “realists” is not exactly accurate: both men were eager supporters of the Iraq War; Kissinger generally shades his views according to what he thinks power wants to hear; while Shultz, a realist on the Soviet Union who also opened the way toward recognition of the PLO, has long taken an ultra-hawkish line on terrorism (remember his fights with Weinberger over Lebanon) and even served with McCain on the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI) and the Committee on the Present Danger.

So long as Randy Scheunemann, who co-founded and directed CLI, which was really a front group for Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, remains McCain’s principal foreign-policy spokesman, the presumption that the hawks have the upper hand in the battle for influence seems entirely reasonable. Similarly, McCain’s unstinting support for the Surge and for maintaining at least 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq through the end of the year is hardly consistent with the notion that the realists — whose views on that questions were made clear in the Baker-Hamilton Report — have much of an impact. And the McCain campaign’s categorical denunciation of Jimmy Carter’s reported plans to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal — in contrast to somewhat more moderate language used by the Clinton and Obama campaigns — makes clear that he is not exactly on the same page as Brent Scowcroft, another purported realist adviser, who has called for Washington to devise some way of involving Hamas in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. So McCain is trying to take a very hawkish stance on foreign policy. Is this a real McCain or is he trying to get the support of hardline conservatives and neocons?

  2. Technical problems?!?, China trip?!? DAMMIT JIM that’s unacceptible. We’re counting on you, don’t make us turn on you.

  3. Great point re: Kissinger; calling him a “realist” is a little like calling Genghis Khan an esquestrian.

Comments are closed.