In the end:
The culture-war surge in the U.S election campaign has come at the expense of meaningful debate about the real wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s dangerous because they stand at critical junctures. We’ve had Sarah Palin at the Republican National Convention setting a new low for foreign policy with her attempt to mock Barack Obama’s approach to international terrorists: “He’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights.” I’m sorry, Ms. Palin, but out there in Alaska, between moose shoots, did you hear about Bagram, Abu Ghraib, renditions, waterboarding, Guantánamo and the rest?
John McCain knows what happens when those rights disappear. He described his Vietnamese nightmare the next night: “They worked me over harder than they ever had before. For a long time. And they broke me.” A man remembers getting broken: that’s why McCain fought the use of torture by the Bush administration. His condoning of those words from his vice-presidential candidate is appalling. Foreign policy be damned if you can score a God-fearing-macho-versus-liberal-constitutionalist point.
But the bloody wars, seven years after 9/11, have not paused for this sterile U.S. cultural battle. With some 180,000 troops in the two theaters, U.S. reserve capacity is stretched to the limit — something Iran knows when it keeps the centrifuges turning and Russia knows when it grabs Georgia.
Two intractable wars should preclude the culture war McCain has just so shamelessly embraced. He loves the word “fight.” So fight on the issues — and let the people decide.