On March 15, US Senator John McCain (R-AZ) revealed just how ridiculous the American political establishment's reliance on Vladimir Putin as boogeyman has become.
McCain, seeking the Senate's unanimous consent to advance a bill supporting admission of the small country of Montenegro to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, warned that anyone who dissented would be "carrying out the desires and ambitions of [Russian president Vladimir] Putin." True to form, when Kentucky Republican Rand Paul objected (meaning only that the matter will actually be debated instead of rubber-stamped), McCain asserted that "the senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin."
Paul's having some fun with McCain's over-the-top theatrics, describing McCain as "past his prime" and "unhinged" on MSNBC's Morning Joe. But let's set aside the rivalry aspect and look at what McCain's hysterical performance says about US foreign policy.
Montenegro is a small country (about 600,000 people) with a small military (less than 2,000 active duty soldiers, sailors, and airmen) which is nowhere near the north Atlantic (its only coastline is on the Adriatic Sea).
Lest we forget, the Balkans are known for producing wars both small and large. Montenegro borders Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo and Serbia. Is there any particular reason the US should commit itself by treaty to intervene in the military spats that break out in that region at the drop of a hat (or the assassination of an Archduke)?
The only word I can come up with on short notice to describe the idea of bringing Montenegro into NATO is "nonsensical."
But even assuming the idea made sense at all, it hardly seems urgent. The matter has been pending for more than a year now (Montenegro received its initial NATO invitation in December of 2015). Is the world going to end if the US Senate takes time to talk it over instead of just stampeding on John McCain's command?
McCain seems to think so. He considers any Senate action other than unthinking, reflexive approval of anything he might happen to propose vis a vis US foreign policy to be evidence of a Russian plot to destroy America, and anyone who doesn't give him exactly what he wants on demand a Russian agent.
The American foreign policy establishment's use of Vladimir Putin as an all-purpose hobgoblin isn't just ridiculous, it's dangerous and insane. Left unchecked it will, sooner or later, drag America into unnecessary wars costing us untold blood and treasure.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.