Sunday, May 14, 2006

On John McCain and America

McCain took a lot of flack for accepting the speaking engagement at Pat Robertson's Liberty University and prior to his speech it was my guess that he was pulling the classic Nixonian "Run to the right early, head back to the center mid election season" stratgey. I was wrong. I have no problems admitting that. His purpose was much higher than that. Allow me to highlight a few high points of his speech:

On the war in Iraq:

"I supported the decision to go to war in Iraq. Many Americans did not. My patriotism and my conscience required me to support it and to engage in the debate over whether and how to fight it. I stand that ground not to chase vainglorious dreams of empire; not for a noxious sense of racial superiority over a subject people; not for cheap oil; -- we could have purchased oil from the former dictator at a price far less expensive than the blood and treasure we’ve paid to secure those resources for the people of that nation; not for the allure of chauvinism, to wreak destruction in the world in order to feel superior to it; not for a foolishly romantic conception of war. I stand that ground because I believed, rightly or wrongly, that my country’s interests and values required it."

"War is an awful business. The lives of the nation’s finest patriots are sacrificed. Innocent people suffer. Commerce is disrupted, economies damaged. Strategic interests shielded by years of statecraft are endangered as the demands of war and diplomacy conflict. Whether the cause was necessary or not, whether it was just or not, we should all shed a tear for all that is lost when war claims its wages from us. However just or false the cause, how ever proud and noble the service, it is loss – the loss of friends, the loss of innocent life, the loss of innocence -- that the veteran feels most keenly forever more. Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes war."

"Americans should argue about this war. It has cost the lives of nearly 2500 of the best of us. It has taken innocent life. It has imposed an enormous financial burden on our economy. At a minimum, it has complicated our ability to respond to other looming threats. Should we lose this war, our defeat will further destabilize an already volatile and dangerous region, strengthen the threat of terrorism, and unleash furies that will assail us for a very long time. I believe the benefits of success will justify the costs and risks we have incurred. But if an American feels the decision was unwise, then they should state their opposition, and argue for another course. It is your right and your obligation. I respect you for it. I would not respect you if you chose to ignore such an important responsibility. But I ask that you consider the possibility that I, too, am trying to meet my responsibilities, to follow my conscience, to do my duty as best as I can, as God has given me light to see that duty."

On the Crisis in Darfur:

"Take, for example, the awful human catastrophe under way in the Darfur region of the Sudan. If the United States and the West can be criticized for our role in this catastrophe it is because we have waited too long to intervene to protect the multitudes who are suffering, dying because of it."

"Twelve years ago, we turned a blind eye to another genocide, in Rwanda. And when that reign of terror finally, mercifully exhausted itself, with over 800,000 Rwandans slaughtered, Americans, our government, and decent people everywhere in the world were shocked and ashamed of our silence and inaction, for ignoring our values, and the demands of our conscience. In shame and renewed allegiance to our ideals, we swore, not for the first time, “never again.” But never lasted only until the tragedy of Darfur."

"Now, belatedly, we have recovered our moral sense of duty, and are prepared, I hope, to put an end to this genocide. Osama bin Laden and his followers, ready, as always, to sacrifice anything and anyone to their hatred of the West and our ideals, have called on Muslims to rise up against any Westerner who dares intervene to stop the genocide, even though Muslims, hundreds of thousands of Muslims, are its victims. Now that, my friends, is a difference, a cause, worth taking up arms against."

On Dissent, Discourse, and Debate:

"We have our disagreements, we Americans. We contend regularly and enthusiastically over many questions: over the size and purposes of our government; over the social responsibilities we accept in accord with the dictates of our conscience and our faithfulness to the God we pray to; over our role in the world and how to defend our security interests and values in places where they are threatened. These are important questions; worth arguing about. We should contend over them with one another. It is more than appropriate, it is necessary that even in times of crisis, especially in times of crisis, we fight among ourselves for the things we believe in. It is not just our right, but our civic and moral obligation."

"Our country doesn’t depend on the heroism of every citizen. But all of us should be worthy of the sacrifices made on our behalf. We have to love our freedom, not just for the private opportunities it provides, but for the goodness it makes possible. We have to love it as much, even if not as heroically, as the brave Americans who defend us at the risk and often the cost of their lives. We must love it enough to argue about it, and to serve it, in whatever way our abilities permit and our conscience requires, whether it calls us to arms or to altruism or to politics."

"Americans deserve more than tolerance from one another, we deserve each other’s respect, whether we think each other right or wrong in our views, as long as our character and our sincerity merit respect, and as long as we share, for all our differences, for all the noisy debates that enliven our politics, a mutual devotion to the sublime idea that this nation was conceived in – that freedom is the inalienable right of mankind, and in accord with the laws of nature and nature’s Creator."

"We have so much more that unites us than divides us. We need only to look to the enemy who now confronts us, and the benighted ideals to which Islamic extremists pledge allegiance -- their disdain for the rights of Man, their contempt for innocent human life -- to appreciate how much unites us."

The Complete Speech

McCain raised alot of points that I firmly believe in.

We have to finish the war in Iraq.

The costs of us pulling out or failing are far to high.

America should help stop the crisis in Darfur.

America was born out of a fight against injustice. As such America should always seek to promote justice. However in the case of genocide, the ultimate injustice, we have a fundamental moral obligation to intervene. I'm not saying we should police the world however I do think we have an obligation to play the part of Superman in extreme circumstances ie Might for Right.

Americans should respect each other views.

The left vs right arguement is needed. However the level of disrespect that has reared its head over the recent course of that arguement is hideous. I contend that the fringes of both sides don't love the real America. They love the idea of their America. The "America" they would inflict upon us. Different ideas and the discourse surrounding them are the very lifeblood of America. And on both the far left and the far right I have not seen much of the "I disagree with what you have to say but will fight to the death to protect your right to say it." attitude that has helped make this country great. Political discourse hones America like a whetstone. It is the meat and potatos that has fueled America's evolution. Additionally calling for the silence, particularly the violent silencing, of voices that differ from yours is truly un-American. The insults and threats that plague the current debate in and about America and particularly within the blogosphere must stop, for if nothing else we are all fellow countrymen seeking the betterment of this great nation. That commonality alone should be enough for us to afford each other respect.

In closing:

I like McCain on a visceral level much in the same way that I have never liked W. I am, if nothing else, an excellent judge of charachter. I am probably one of the very few people that believed beyond any shadow of a doubt that W would invade Iraq if elected. I was proven right. In that same way I also believe that McCain would have made a better president than W and will be a more viable candidate than any the Democrats will field in 2008. I believe that I will be proven right again. W has divided this nation in a way that has not been seen since Viet Nam and by promoting tolerance, steadfastness, and respect at what many consider to be one of the most extreme institutions in America John McCain has made one of the first real steps towards uniting this country.