McCain’s Heroism, peeling the onion
July 1, 2008
We have all heard the story of John McCain’s military service during the Vietnam War. His valor is evidenced by trying to rescue a trapped pilot on the USS Forrestal during a fire on deck that killed 134 sailors. His streak of 23 bombing missions was terminated when he was shot down and captured by North Vietnamese civilians. Not exactly an accomplishment on the level of Sgt York, so we turn to his refusal to provide propaganda despite long beatings, torture and deprivation. He finally did make a “confession” after years when he reached the breaking point. Human beings each have a individual tolerance for physical torture. I do not think any less of him for breaking. He demonstrated superlative tenacity to hold out for as long as he did. But perhaps there is more to why he could endure the unspeakable than just his military training and family history. Does John McCain have a force of will power that is rooted in stubbornness? The stubbornness that once fixed on a path will not be deterred. A stubbornness of the current administration that has brought our nation into disrepute in much of the world. To be sure McCain has made numerous changes in policy positions over in a long career, but these were mostly out of political expediency and not a reversal of a core value. In a multi power centered world where much of the world population does not agree with American hegemony a U.S. President who sees a hundred years struggle focused on projecting military might will be at a severe disadvantage in spreading Americas values and no amount of bluster and bullheadedness will improve the performance. The heroism of withstanding prolonged torture does not in itself imply wisdom.