Funeral services are not for the benefit of the defunct, who is beyond our praise or condemnation, but for the living, who know before long that they will follow the honored dead into a cold grave.
Senator John McCain’s funeral was the most ostentatious that Washington has accorded except for a president, and much grander than the 2006 funeral of Gerald Ford, for example. The American Establishment took the opportunity to mourn a world that it imagined but never inhabited.
The eulogies for the Arizona senator, to be sure, were a convenient occasion for the Establishment to show its dudgeon at “the pointedly un-invited President Trump,” as the New Yorker noted, calling the event “the biggest resistance meeting yet.”
McCain’s daughter Meghan contrasted what she called her father’s “real greatness” with the “cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice,” a reference to Trump. Politics, though, were less important than the American elite’s collective exercise in self-consolation after the catastrophic failure of its policies and its repudiation by the voters in the 2016 election.
Senator McCain served his country and suffered on its behalf as a prisoner of war, and deserves respect on the occasion of his passing. But the unctuous sea of self-congratulatory declarations of virtue embedded in his obsequies was enough to make the portraits in the Capitol rotunda puke.
Here, for example, is the Chicago Tribune: “Ringing through Washington National Cathedral on a dreary morning were paeans to bipartisanship, compromise and civility of the sort that seem to be under daily assault from all corners of the country, especially from the White House … A common decency. A shared identity and values that transcend ideology, class or race. A toughness that shows itself in battle and service to nation rather than on Twitter. Each of these was touted as a key element of McCain’s epic life.”
The un-invited president recalls the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, to whose christening were invited 12 of the kingdom’s 13 wise women – the palace had only 12 golden plates. Humiliated, the 13th wise woman gave the new born a curse rather than a blessing, declaring that it would prick its thumb and die.
In its narcissism and self-adulation, the Establishment will not die of pricking of the thumb, but the other way around.
By civility and bipartisanship, the Establishment refers to the policy consensus that squandered America’s dominant position in the world after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990. America had no military competitors of importance when George W. Bush took office in 2001, and an edge in high technology that made the American economy seem insuperable. Since then:
- China has taken America’s place as the leading exporter of high-tech equipment;
- America faces credible military competition from China;
- Real median household income hasn’t grown since 2000;
- The civilian labor force participation rate has fallen from 67% in 2000 to 63% today;
- Productivity growth has languished at 1% a year since the global financial crisis;
- US federal debt has between 2000 and 2018 has doubled as a share of GDP;
- The American economy became “cartelized, corrupt and anti-competitive,” dominated by a handful of tech monopolies who combined to crush competition.
Bush, supported by Senator McCain and the Republican mainstream, spent $5.6 trillion chasing the phantom of democracy in the Middle East, not to mention more than 6,700 American dead, more than 50,000 wounded and millions of lives disrupted.
That is why American voters elected Donald Trump in 2016. The bipartisan Establishment had circled the wagons to protect itself from accountability for its blunders. The same pool of public officials managed a failed foreign policy, and the same revolving door of bankers and regulators bailed out the banks.
Not a single banker of stature was prosecuted, let alone served jail time, for the biggest financial fraud in history. So effectively had the Establishment suppressed dissent and policed its own ranks that any criticism of the Bush Administration’s “freedom agenda” meant instant ostracism.
In 2012, Senator McCain backed the installation of a Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt.
In July 2013, more than 30 million Egyptians – a majority of the adult population – demonstrated against the country’s Muslim Brotherhood government. Under General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s military took control of the country, which was nearly out of food. Al-Sisi saved Egypt from starvation and chaos.
Senator McCain sadly denounced the military takeover as a violation of the democratic process. Technically speaking it was a coup against an elected government, although under emergency conditions and with massive and visible popular support. So beguiled was McCain with the prospect of a democratic Islamic regime that he never accepted that his illusion had vanished.
Sometime later I spoke with George W. Bush’s Director of Central Intelligence, General Michael Hayden. “We were sorry that [Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed] Morsi was overthrown” in July 2013, Hayden explained. “We wanted to see what would happen when the Muslim Brotherhood had to take responsibility for picking up the garbage.”
“General,” I remonstrated, “when Morsi was overthrown, Egypt had three weeks of wheat supplies on hand. The country was on the brink of starvation!” “I guess that experiment would have been tough on the ordinary Egyptian,” Hayden replied.
He wasn’t joking. The ideological commitment of the Establishment to a new global order made facts irrelevant. If things weren’t that way, they should have been that way.
Being an Establishment means never having to say you’re sorry. The first task of an Establishment is to insulate its inmates from the consequences of their errors. Never mind that America’s adventures in Iraq threw the Middle East into a new Thirty Years War, as I warned 10 years ago it would.
The only senior US official to warn of the consequences of the Establishment’s blunders was General Michael Flynn, whose career has been ruined by Establishment holdouts in the intelligence community. The opportunists, careerists, ideologues and fools who ruined America’s strategic position in the world should be the continuing object of public ridicule, but they have safety in numbers.
Because the whole of the Establishment signed on to a failed policy, the whole of it will band together to protect its right to rule.
Twenty years ago, a reporter asked McCain if there was anyone in the Vietnam War whom he couldn’t forgive. The senator answered: “McNamara. That’s the worst to me – to know you’ve made a mistake and to do nothing to correct it while, year after year, people are dying and to do nothing to stop it, to know what your public duty is and to ignore it. I don’t think any conversation we could have would be helpful now.”
Unlike McNamara, McCain never thought that he had made a mistake. He clung to a failed policy out of conviction. During his last years he erupted with anger at old friends who questioned his judgment on matters such as the Muslim Brotherhood. His unswerving belief in the inherent virtue of the Establishment agenda has made him the saint and martyr of the moment.
The bright line in American policy divides the utopians who believe that America’s mission is to bring free markets and liberal democracies to the benighted, backward nations of the world, and realists like Trump.
Senator McCain threw his support to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the expectation that it would become a vehicle for Muslim democracy; Donald Trump proposed to insulate America from the problems of the Muslim world.
McCain and Bush are Mainline Protestants, which is to say Wilsonian missionaries. Mitt Romney is the Mormon variety of the same thing. The Never-Trump neoconservatives, like Bill Kristol, John Podhoretz and the late Charles Krauthammer, played Sancho Panza to Bush’s Don Quixote.
Trump rose to the top in the Republican primaries when he proposed to freeze immigration from some Muslim-majority countries, a stark declaration that America’s safety is what matters, not the fate of nations on the other side of the world.
More than anything else that Trump did, the travel ban horrified the Establishment, but it won the support of 60% of American voters. Trump declared in effect that the United States would rather insulate itself from problems in Muslim-majority nations than fix them. American interests would come first.
Trump inherited a host of problems from the failed Establishment consensus. The greatest of these was the rise of China, which invested in advanced weaponry while the United States spent nearly $6 trillion on its end-of-history illusion.
If the United States had devoted a small fraction of that $6 trillion to frontier research in military technologies, America still would be the unchallenged hyperpower. Dr Henry Kressel and this writer advocated a crash program to restore American technological dominance in a 2013 essay for The American Interest, in a 2016 op-ed for The Wall Street Journal and other venues.
Trump’s style has been obstreperous and sometimes rowdy, and he eschews the air of regal noblesse oblige that some of his predecessors brought to the Oval Office. But the hatred he elicits from the Establishment has nothing to do with style, or indeed, with any of his shortcomings: Trump is hated because the American people elected him to bury the Establishment. Last weekend the Establishment obliged by conducting burial services for itself.
How do you indicate tyhat he was released early?
Michael Robert Thomson – "in light of history"? You mean the history of disengagement and "strategic patience" that allowed the neighboring Ba’athist regime in Syria prevail, even in the face of use of chemical weapons? That it allowed the country to descend into an uncontrollable quagmire that Russia, Turkey and Iran now decide how to divide?
As I wrote, judgment on the intervention in Iraq is a perfect litmust test of one’s competences regarding strategic, geopolitical moves entire countries make. The irony of the seemingly anti-Establishment blokes like yourself is that very often you find yourselves in agreement not only with the said Establishment – but even with the majority of the population. All Democrats and even many Republicans would agree with you. So which side are you on exactly?
I love it when people who claim to understand politics try to quote public statements made by politicians. Whatever is said, is said for a reason. To understand foreign policy – or politics in general – you have to be able to read between the lines, not gobble up headlines.
That said, the reasons for incursion into Iraq aren’t even relevant. 15 years forward we know what happened to the region – so we also know full well what could have happened in Iraq. With an ageing dictator, waiting to be ripped apart by sectarian forces within his own country, pushing it to a far greater conflict than the one in Syria – for many reasons (more strategic location, dividing Iran and KSA directly, greater oil wealth, more pronounced divisions between the North, South and the Kurdish Northeast of the country).
Together with Syria we would have a conflict raging from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, likely with direct involvement by both the Saudis and Iranians, trying to ensure one doesn’t encroach on the other.
We’re 7 years into war in Syria – the country is barely administered, largely lies in ruin, half of the population is displaced, millions fled. Nothing even remotely as catastrophic happened in Iraq – enabling the country to endure and ultimately allowed for a transfer of power to new authorities.
And it can be a divided and corrupt state but it is still a state – a functioning and growing one, with a flawed but still functional democracy – unlike any other in the region, in fact.
What did that earn America or the world? It averted a threat of direct Saudi – Iranian confrontation across 400km of flat Iraqi deserts. A massive power vacuum accompanying the conflict, leading to even greater growth of dangerous extremism.
It created a country with a future rather than leaving a one as a ticking bomb waiting to implode and collapse with uknown consequences, which would have rippled across the world with nobody daring to step in and intervene.
What Americans performed was a controlled demolition and a reform on foreign soil unprecedented in scale and complexity. One which didn’t exactly go smoothly, one which was fraught with mistakes and a heavy financial burden. But also one which – on the whole, given the circumstances, the tribal divisions, the corruption and proxy powers vying for influence – ended with a successful handover of governance into Iraqi hands, creating a fairly stable state in a region that is persistently on fire.
Spengler must hav been shunned by the Establishment. While there is certainly some validity to his points, his hysteria resembles strongly that displayed by the extremes at both ends of the U.S. political spectrum
Jeff Aziz —So not necessary…and I would suggest that Sun’s English proficiency is far better than your use of the language.
Luca Taramelli —Pray to whom? As far as God is concerned the Jews were and always have been “…Mine own treasure from among all peoples” and yet you describe them as rats escaping a sinking ship as they have done for centuries according to your understanding.
You are on the wrong side of the end of human history.
McCain’s funeral said more about the the Trump Derangement Syndrome crowd than it said about Trump. They befouled what should be a sacred event with bitter vitriol in McCain’s name. Trump lives rent free in their heads.
There has been a substantial amount of truth managing to pierce the shades of gray lately. God bless.
Brilliant article, couldn’t say it any better. Times are changing…
Michael Robert Thomson — "…the truth of the history of US foreign policy"? As defined by you and as exemplified by your inane comment? Mike Garrland is right; jibberish Mr. Thomson.
Sami Ahmed —When Islam renounces the killing of Jews and the destruction of Israel you will gain some credibility…until then Islam and those who believe in the Quran have nothing but destruction to look forward to.
Keshet Millman Critism of Jews is not anti-Semite or racist and saying it is does not make it so. If that those are your definitions then the defintions have no meaning.
Joel Domino OK McCain did a heroic action – once. That has become a Sacred Cow. McCain’s funeral too is a Sacred Cow. Heroic deeds once done and the avoidance of speaking ill of the newly dead is being used as cover for being petty. IOW all of this is orchestrated to take shots at one’s social enemies while removing their chance at any defense. This is McCain through and through. His pettiness was demonstrated flagrantly with the famous thumbs down for repealing Obamacare. That was inexcusable _despite_ whatever he did in Vietnam. He liked the attention that being a contrarian gave him. He loved nothing more than giving someone the finger. That’s all this is about.
Thanks for a good and helpful essay. I have one little and marginal quibble It is with the opening words "Funeral services are not for the benefit of the defunct…" Whenever I take part in a funeral Mass, which I do frequently, it is primarily to pray for the deceased that he may find trest for eternity with the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…
Agree but you are letting McCain off the hook of not sharing the responsibility. We naturally want to do that because he was a POW and it is a funeral. But he set this up contrarian and petty as he is to the end by who he did not invite and who he wanted to give eulogies knowing what would come of that. This was McCain giving the last finger.
Joel Domino substance over style. nobodies ox is getting gored, low info voter
Thank you Spengler for a great article. It’s so funny how that funeral put all of the frauds on display. The American people are ill-served by NYT/WAPO media, but they are perceptive enough to appreciate true authenticity in one’s devotion to America, and to despise self-serving showboats, especially those moral cowards who constantly point the finger at Mother Russia as the scapegoat for their incompetence and weakness. History will record the truth. McCain was a serious player in the conspiracy to frame Trump with Russian collusion. That last gasp joining hands with evil cannot be good for the poor bastard’s soul. George W. makes the national soul want to puke. Obama sends it into a state of fervent prayer. Thank you Lord for the miracle of November 8, 2016 that redirected the course of history.
It was indeed painful to watch and read the hypocritical, hate-filled bias spewed out from seemingly every corner of the self-preserving, self-promoting members of the media, including most of Hollywood and especially career politicians during McCain’s funeral no less –which lasted what seemed like an eternity. At some point, enough was enough–they lost all credibility and I just stopped reading. These hate mongers only thrive because of their numbers–and their (obvious to anyone with a mind) intention of keeping their nests well-feathered at the expense of American tax payers. Bottom line: they fear losing their turf. Not disparaging the dead–but such a self-serving and revengeful spectacle as this was shameful and not becoming a funeral which should never be made into a political battleground. Articles such as these are a breath of fresh air.
Everybody pissing and whining about McCain’s legacy, record, reputation, whatever. Newsflash: John McCain is as dead and as inert as a frying pan. He’s gone forever and will never be back… He was acknowledged to be a vindicative pr*ck by everybody who knew him. If his father and grandfather hadn’t been part of the military/political establishment, he might have risen to the rank of Lt. Commander of some tugboat out of Guam, but that’s about it. Lt. Command Lloyd Bucher was ten times the so-called ‘hero’ that McCain was, but whoah, he surrendered the Pueblo, which the Norks have on display to this day. Too bad Bucher’s father wasn’t some big shot at the JCS, maybe he would have gotten the champagne treatment McCain did. BTW, while I didn’t like the guy, I get infuriated when I read the BS story about how he caused the catastrophic explosions and fires on the Saratoga off the coast of Vietnam. That didn’t happen, and there are plenty of other, honest to god reasons to dislike the assh*le, but not some uniformed conjecture. Anyway, by the end of the week, nobody will be talking about him… removing President Trump (say it, ha ha ha!) from office if much more important than mooning over the record of some Establishment D*ck who deliberately picked some lightweight as a running mate so as to facilitate the election of the first… gasp… colored American President. Herman Cain was blacker than Obama, with two actually black parents, rather than a goofy Liberal mulatto like Barry O. Too bad Herman was Conservative… can’t have that now, can we? The first ‘Black’ President had to be a Leftist, doncha know? Hey, let’s lynch Cain in the press by trotting out that old racist trope of him chasing White women.. LoL, you can’t make this sh*t up. As far as McCain’s legacy, look what happened with Ted Kennedy and Paul Wellstone… dead and forgotten, except for a wikipedia entry… Big deal. So what? Wait… this just in… Trump said ‘P*ssy’! OMG! Oh, we got him now, that’s it, game over… Impeachment time Baby! Shee-it. If you set sail from San Fransisco without ever deviating from your course, eventually you’ll wind up on the rocks of the Asian continent… the Leftists don’t seem to have figured this simple fact out yet. When they lose everything in 2018, and then 2020, rather than face the fact that their insistence that the main stream media follow their hard left lead, the Lefties will try to litigate and cry about unfairness all the way up to the Supreme Court. America is sick of this crap. Yeah, there’s a place for Liberal thought, but not this crazy Leftist nonsense getting pushed these days. All you’re doing is convincing people that the media is full of sh*t and hopelessly Left/Socialist. It’s not going to happen in the United States, okay? Hint: You need to coopt the military first. I mean, really, can’t anybody play this here game?
Reasonable analysis. Alas, the polls indicate Trump will lose the House. The Democrats will focus on Medicare for All, Free College, and Impeachment. It will be much harder to keep the economic growth coming, shift to reciprocal trade and global supply chains centered on the US.
Carl Harris —Luca’s "criticism" of Jews is anti-Semitic in the extreme and if you cannot concede that truth it is not Keshet who has a problem with definition.
Our leaders are imbeciles. If "geniuses" like Steve Jobs and John McCain diverted billions toward medical research – they wouldn’t have died from cancer. Instead, they and other "leaders" divert trillions into foolish enterprises.
Well spoken, Agreed on all points
Rebuttal to Spengler needed…
You mean the entire establishment isn’t rebuttal enough for you?
Well Spengler, taking god a testimonial for your narrative, doesn’t help logical reasoning.
Ok Adler, I should have written " wish luck " instead of " pray "
And yet, somehow a majority of the ordinary voting public seems to take more or less the same view of things under Trump as “the Establishment”…..what’s going on?
Mr. Trump’s supporters seem to think of these people either as vaguely ignorant (deplorable?!?) types, incapable of making the right sort of electoral decisions, or as “elites” nefariously trying to safeguard their privileges at the expense of what’s good for the country (kind of hilarious that 50-55% of any human grouping could be defined as an “elite”, but hey…). Maybe instead of the triumphalist and self-righteous image they seem to have of themselves as the perpetually victimized and aggrieved party, they could be a bit more humble and start to think of the other half of the country not as a shadowy grouping of enemies and “elites” but rather as patriotic fellow citizens who happen to have a different view of Mr. Trump’s agenda and governing style but still want what’s best for the country.
To put it another way, one of the biggest deceptions the right is engaging in nowadays is the belief that “the people” are all on their side and that all of the resistance to the President and the GOP’s agenda is coming from some shadowy “Establishment”. It’s not, the resistance is very much an expression of how ordinary voters feel and the often over-the-top attacks from the media in fact reflect the deep antipathy of many of those voters toward a very polarized agenda being pursued by the current administration. Might not be a bad thing for the right to begin thinking of their opposition not as “the Establishment” but rather as half the ordinary electorate, and considering the possibility that governing more from the center would be the way to move forward in that eventuality.
David Goldman always fascinated by your analysis – 1 question that’s been on my mind for a while – while you have spoken of the everlasting Jewish people thanks to their covenant with the ‘one God’, there is also the case of the Hindus (using this term in blanket sense for various dharmic peoples) who have survived many holocausts through history, emerging in the modern Indian state effectively winning political freedom after a 1000 year period of foreign domination. They dont have a documented ‘covenant’. But their recorded history goes back to 5000 years bp …what would you say on this?
Rot in hell, traitor to the US people
Wow, what a blast! Mr Petraeus’ analysis of what happened in the US Iraqi intervention seems to present what most of the world thinks to have been a disaster all around, as a good deed. That takes some doing. I was under the impression that the US was looking to achieve something other than the Shia control over Iraq that is now basically on the same page with Iran and Assad in Syria. Western powers still refuse to allow the Syrian war to end, but rather continue to intervene to prolong the agony of that country, an agony that was started by CIA plotting way back when. Of course the situation that exists in Iraq now, after all of the horrors of the last 15 years, isn’t exactly what was intended by the US. I doubt that the US great friends the Sunni, Wahabbist, Salafist Saudis approve.
You ask what side I’m on? I am on my side. My side would like people everywhere to be able to live their lives in peace without someone’s political/economic agenda being thrust upon them by psychopathic politicians getting heir egos off playing great power games. As for Mr Pfingsten, I wonder what he means? US interventions in other people’s politics has been a consistent theme for a very long time – Iran coup in 1953, various South American interventions, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, Syria etc etc. They always end badly. Now, after all of this meddling, the US has a debt of $21trillion and nothing much to show for it but horrendous internal division, a completely dysfunctional political system and a world that has had enough. Get over yourselves, the world is not interested in being recreated in America’s image no matter how much you want to think that it is. Trump wants to pull back and rebuild at home. That’s what Americans voted for. Personally I think the world will be a much better place if that is what happens.
Thank GOD for "OUR" President Trump. Never liked McCain and sorry for his passing but he was just a man and not a living god. I feel sorry for sons that have to live in the shadow of the father.
Sami Ahmed Look around you, nothing you see comes from your world, your phone, plane travel, sports, music, medicine, science let along our human rights and freedoms. Everywhere the cancer of islam touches death, misogyny and violence follow as we see througout Europe, the Philipinnes, Thailand and the noose is tightening in Turkey and Indonesia.
Joel Domino Look up Denton. Also a POW but longer. Contrast the two men. Johns dad an Admiral, for example. John dumps crippled wife to marry heiress to launch political career. Check out Denton’s career.
Joel Domino the issue of McCain’s POW "hero" status isn’t whether he was or wasn’t, it’s that being a POW who was tortured isn’t a qualification for U.S. Senate and McCain milked that cow for 35 years.
The other issue with McCain is his "conservativism." It’s certainly true that he voted with conservatives most of the time. The problem with McCain is that on important issues like immigration he was always on the wrong side. Always.
Bottom line I won’t quibble about McCain’s hero status in Hanoi. There’s more than enough well documented info availble to say that before and after Hanoi he was a self-absorbed, selfish, small, mean little man.
Sami, Muslims have 1,400 years of unblemished history of butchering their neighbors or enslaving them. Lying and pedophilia are baked into your so-called religion.
The biggest mistakes we’ve made since 9/11 is not completely wiping out your existence in the Middle East. For starters.
Spot on, but don’t count on any liberal agreement…the religion card? Petty and low!
Oh puleeze Mr. Goldman give us a break. Jews and God have nothing in common. Just look at Palistine. More like the Devil`s spawn, than God`s chosen.
Jeff McCabe , the Navy honored McCain for his service, and that’s good enough for me. I don’t need to wade through the sewer of rumors.
KS Chin , I criticize Trump when I think he is doing the wrong thing. I support him and want him to succeed, so my criticism is intended to suggest better ways to obtain his goals.
Regarding the Establishment’s unified foreign policy from Clinton through Obama, I recommend Michael Mandelbaum’s book "Mission Failure," which I reviewed here:
McCain’s funeral was over the top. I honor him for his military service. But he died a bitter man.
Your glorification of Trump’s isolationist foreign policy and demonization of the "Establishment" borders on a cartoon. Trump has no interest in military superiority over China. He is a businessman whose only interest is the bottom line. If abandoning our Asian allies will save money on defense spending, he has announced his enthusiasm for doing it. It is the canny, highly professional military figures like Mattis who have to try, usually in vain, to pound some kindergarten level of strategic sense into his head.
Moreover, he clearly stated in his inaugural address that one central goal of his presidency would be to entirely eliminate all Islamic radicalism from the face of the earth. Compared to that messianic proclamation of global salvation, Wilson’s 14 points shrivel to insignigicance.
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