August 25, 2019

What would John McCain do?

By Richard Fontaine

A year ago, the world lost Sen. John McCain. The global response to his passing — largely grief and appreciation from allies and democratic activists, mostly silence from adversaries and autocrats — said much about the man. John McCain believed in the power of America to act not only on its own behalf but for all of humanity. He was a true idealist, that senator from Arizona, but he was also a realist. And it is to that combination of principles I often turn when thinking about today’s greatest foreign policy challenges.

For five years I had the good fortune to serve as Sen. McCain’s foreign policy advisor, and to keep in touch with him after that. My last meeting with him, in Arizona not long before his passing, reinforced my view that his absence would create a void in America’s national security thinking, and one not easily filled. Since then, when considering issues around the world, many who knew him have wondered what John McCain would do.

Sen. McCain was a believer in freedom and democracy, often stressing the “all” in the claim that all men and women are created equal and entitled to certain rights. I believe he’d look on the protests in Hong Kong today with a mixture of hope and foreboding, wishing that the U.S. government would speak loudly in support while warning Beijing that violence will elicit real consequences. He’d wish to aid or work with fragile democracies like Tunisia and Malaysia, and encourage continued progress in places like Ethiopia and Sudan. And he’d make clear that the great power competition in which America is enmeshed will be contested not only with economic power and military strength, but by force of ideals.

Read the full article in The Hill.

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