"This just wasn't the elimination of a threat to Iraq - this was elimination of a threat to the West, part of this titanic struggle we are in between western Judeo-Christian values and principles and Islamic extremists," McCain said in 2006, after the killing of Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.Then again, "in arguing for a strong defense of Georgia in its struggles with Russia, McCain twice noted that Georgia is a Christian nation - perhaps to distinguish it from other crumbling pieces of the former Soviet Union that are Muslim, such as Chechnya and Azerbaijan."
Canellos ends by wondering aloud whether most Americans would even notice this language, but also by wondering how those Americans who aren't Jews or Christians might feel -- Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc.
I'm left wondering too, specifically because of how McCain seems to be championing a manichaean world-view (like George W. Bush) but pushing it into a starkly religious territory that Bush, at least ostensibly, has tried hard to avoid. Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations" but with a (new) pentecostal evangelical bent* -- something others have noted too. All this reminds me, unfortunately, of something I've talked about again and again and again here, specifically how the ideas that reside behind the word "crusade" survive, move, and adapt.
Here, McCain (in many ways, like Bush) is framing the -- note -- violent struggles that the US faces in the context of a quasi-apocalyptic religious struggle of good (Judeo-Christian) vs. evil (non-Christian -- Islamic in the case of Iraq, Iran, & Al-Qaeda; "heathen?" in the case of Russia). McCain's rhetoric is not Gen. Boykin's but it's not far off. I'm don't know if Sen. McCain is quite aware of all the connotations of his words here. I do, however, know that I'm not particularly comfortable with either response he might give to that query.
*See especially Richard Bulliet's critique of Huntington and the idea of the West as an exclusively Judeo-Christian civilization.