McCain and his neoconservative friends have long believed that what makes America great is our ability to flex our military might around the globe. But most Americans, and particularly conservatives, think of “national defense” quite literally — as in defending our own country. Fewer Americans now believe that our involvement in places like Afghanistan have anything to do with our actual security, and after a decade of war and a mountain of debt, it becomes harder for neocons to still fool people into believing otherwise.
You have to hand it to John McCain. He sticks to his guns. Literally. As America grows weary of the world’s-policeman foreign policy of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, McCain wanted the world to know that the United States would never turn in its badge.
At the 2012 Republican National Convention last week, McCain said, “America must be on the right side of history. The demand for our leadership in the world has never been greater. People don’t want less of America. They want more.” McCain then went on to explain why, essentially, the U.S. needed to stay in Iraq and Afghanistan indefinitely, and why we needed to start new wars with Syria, Iran, and the rest of the Middle East.
In 2008, being uniformly pro-war was a popular position among Republicans. In 2012, it gets a lukewarm response at best. And this is exactly what McCain got, as each call by the senator to start a new war was met with ambivalent applause or worse. Most Americans — conservative or liberal — can’t really tell you why we are still in Afghanistan. Most polls show that a strong majority of Americans believe we are too involved around the world. And virtually everyone agrees we can’t afford our ambitious foreign policy, with the exception of the always war-eager neoconservatives, an ideological group of which John McCain is a leading spokesman. In 2008, anyone who suggested that we get out of the Middle East was accused of “cutting and running” by Republicans like McCain. Today, calls to get out of Afghanistan are common on conservative talk radio, where nationally syndicated hosts Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin have wondered why we’re still there.