John McCain’s views on war and defending the US were shaped by his Navy father and by his own time in Vietnam, Jeffrey Goldberg writes in the Atlantic, with victory as the only honorable outcome. His father believed public sentiment led to defeat in Vietnam even as a winning plan was taking root. “History repeats itself, huh?” says McCain, aware of the parallels with Iraq.
McCain says he’s “tried not to overlearn the lessons of Vietnam,” but his assessment of Iraq has been very much informed by that conflict. “Both of them understood that withdrawal without honor has costs,” Henry Kissinger said of the McCains. “The son knows this from his own experience and from his father.” And though McCain knows it’s unpopular, he believes preemption is one way to preserve US honor.