At Least John McCain Never Used the Word ‘Containment’

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Let’s all take a moment and be thankful that Senator John McCain was not successful in his bid to become the President of the United States. Over the past couple of years, our favorite Arizona alta cocker has shown repeatedly that his reputation for foreign policy wisdom is certainly not based on fact. Over and over again, he has made bizarre pronouncements about Eastern Europe, North Korea, and (many times) the Middle East. And now China.

China’s rise as a military power may “not necessarily” trigger conflicts but will require US and Australian cooperation to rein in the Asian titan, senior US Senator John McCain said Tuesday.

Advice to McCain — #1 — You might want to refrain from any language that suggests that the US should “rein in” China. I understand that you may not have used those exact words, but that does seem like a decent characterization based on what you said next. You see, China (and any other nation in the world) doesn’t take kindly to containment policies, particularly after what it experienced during the Cold War.

“I do not predict any conflicts, but I do say that the best way to prevent that is for the United States and Australia to assert the basic principles that conduct of all nations should adhere to,” he told reporters.

Advice to McCain — #2 — It’s good to have principles and to stick by them (something McCain, in fact, has failed to do in the past on a number of occasions). On the other hand, saying that the US should assert such principles that apply to all nations sounds rather arrogant and coercive. But heck, if you can’t be an asshole about it, what’s the point of being a superpower in the first place?

“Australia and the United States must ensure that basics like freedom of the seas are observed by the Chinese,” McCain said, during a joint public appearance with visiting Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who did not comment.

Advice to McCain — #3 — Understood Senator, you want the US and Australia to make sure to keep those pesky Chinese naval vessels off your front lawn. But one last piece of advice here:† if you’re going to say stupid, inflammatory things about China, best not to do so at a joint appearance with the Australian Prime Minister, who actually is accountable for the things that come out of her mouth. Too bad she didn’t comment. I would have liked to hear her say, on international television, something to the effect of “You stupid old fart! Are you deliberately trying to sabotage my visit?”

5 responses on “At Least John McCain Never Used the Word ‘Containment’

  1. Anon

    With all due respect as a regular reader, you get far too worked up about this type of thing. Chinese politicians say substantially similar stuff about the US all the damn time. An overly politicized threat of US imperialism (or democracy) drives public resource allocation and policy making in China at least as much as any supposed China threat does in the US. It’s really not that big a deal (yet, anyway). And what exactly is, “You see, China (and any other nation in the world) doesnít take kindly to containment policies, particularly after what it experienced during the Cold War,” supposed to mean? Are you saying that China’s difficulties during the Cold War were the result of a US containment strategy and not the fact that its leader was delusional megalomaniac? Is it a warning, like, “If you don’t watch your mouth, China’s gonna make you shut up!” I happen to agree with you about McCain, generally, but this is far from the worst thing he’s ever said. Policy makers in many Asian countries and elsewhere happen to be concerned about China’s rapidly growing military power–and, yes, I have read reports of such concerns coming out of Australia too–and it’s not all baseless, irrational politicking. This is a conversation that is going to be had, for bettor or for worse, poorly at times and effectively at others, continuously for the foreseeable future. I would learn not to take it so personally…

    1. Stan Post author

      For what it’s worth, blogging is very much ad hoc. You see something that rubs you the wrong way and happen to have a few minutes free, you hammer out a short post. Sometimes that’s the only reason it gets out there. One could spend 24/7 bringing up items like this McCain thing, but this is the one I came across this morning.

      I’ve disliked McCain for 20+ years now, so I’m biased against the guy. I’ve got no problem if he wants to engage in some China criticism, but doing so in such a ham-handed manner is worthy of a quick rebuke. I think it bothers me even more that his core comments are valid – China is being aggressive in the South China Sea, and the US and Australia will have to respond.

      My Cold War comment was just another way to complain about McCain’s choice of words here. If you’re going to engage in a cogent discussion about Chinese foreign policy and the role of the US, saying anything that even remotely sounds like containment is just playing into the hands of folks over here who already don’t trust the West and take every opportunity to bring up Cold War strategy. It doesn’t matter whether China’s problems in the past were related to that strategy or were the fault of Mao, it’s all about perception. Why say something that plays right into the hands of the critics?

  2. pug_ster

    I think John McCain’s ‘Containment’ attitude is the eroding status of US as the sole superpower. You notice that PM Julia Gillard was largely silent about this issue. China-Australia relations has been getting better lately because China has been becoming more important economic partner rather than the US. Australia has been largely absent when It comes to trying to ‘contain’ China.

  3. Rens Metaal

    Stan this was just his sales pitch for the export of high tech weapons to Australia. Let’s check who has been sending money to McCain? Lockheed? Boeing?

    1. Stan Post author

      Yes, he and his buddy Lieberman are both slavish whores to the defense industry. I’ve heard there’s good money in that sort of thing.